Rahul Gandhi’s five-month opposition march ends in disputed Kashmir
The march, which passed through hundreds of villages and towns, drew farmers concerned about rising debts, students who complained about rising unemployment and activists who said the health of rural democracy was in decline be understood. Along the way, Gandhi abandoned his formerly clean-shaven look for a thick beard and slept in cabins made from shipping containers.
Hindu nationalism has increased under Modi and his party, who have been criticized for increasing hate speech and violence against Muslims. Opponents say Modi’s lack of criticism of the violence emboldens right-wing groups and threatens national unity, but his party has denied it.
Modi’s party dismissed Gandhi’s march and speeches as a political gimmick to regain his “lost credibility.”
In impassioned speeches during the march, Gandhi accused Modi and his government of doing little to counter growing economic inequality, increasing religious polarization and the threat posed by China.
Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a bitter standoff in the mountainous region of Ladakh since 2020. Opposition parties and some experts say the Chinese army has seized some Indian positions in Ladakh’s frigid desert.
In Srinagar, Gandhi told reporters that Modi “is almost frankly the only person in the country who feels that the Chinese have not taken any land from India.”
Gandhi also accused Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party of “attacking the institutional framework of this country”.
“Whether it’s parliament, whether it’s assemblies, whether it’s the judiciary, whether it’s the media, all institutions are being attacked and conquered by the BJP,” he said.
He struck a conciliatory tone in Kashmir, where New Delhi ended the region’s semi-autonomy in 2019 and took direct control of it amid a widespread crackdown and communications blackout.
“I think that statehood and the restoration of the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir are fundamental and very important and I think that would be a first step,” Gandhi said on Sunday. “I’m not happy with what I’m seeing in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, I’m sad.”
Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, each controlling part of the region.
Gandhi called the march a “vision” and said it was “not just a walk in the park” but “an idea of how India should move forward”.
With national elections about 15 months away, the march could help determine whether the beleaguered opposition can fight the electoral juggernaut of the Modi party, which won majorities in 2014 and 2019.
https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/country-of-love-gandhi-s-five-month-opposition-unity-march-ends-in-disputed-kashmir-20230131-p5cgnl.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Rahul Gandhi’s five-month opposition march ends in disputed Kashmir