Former Congress President and MP Shri Rahul Gandhi addresses public meeting at Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium, Srinagar (Jammu-Kashmir) on January 30, 2023.
Addressing the huge gathering, Shri Rahul Gandhi said that senior leaders on the stage, senior leaders of the Congress Party, senior leaders of opposition parties, our dear workers, brothers and sisters, our friends from the press, a very warm welcome to all of you here. You are standing here in the snow today, but none of you is feeling cold! You stood in the rain but did not get wet. Neither did you feel hot in summer nor did you feel cold in winter because the power of the country is with you.
I was listening to Priyanka. Priyanka said about my message that it doesn’t happen normally, but tears welled up in my eyes because I started and walked from Kanyakumari and we walked across the country. I will tell you the truth - you will find it strange, but for many years I run for 8-10 kilometres everyday. So, I thought that walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir would not be that difficult. I felt it in my heart and thought that it would not be challenging for me - physically. Probably, since I exercise a lot, there was a little bit of ego, as happens normally. But then things changed. I used to play football when I was a kid and once when I was playing football in college, I injured my knee quite hard. I had easily forgotten that. There was no pain in the knee, I had forgotten it, the pain had disappeared, but after 5-7 days from Kanyakumari, I experienced a problem in the knee and that too a tremendous one. All the ego melted at once and I started thinking whether I can do this 3,500 kms. Will I be able to walk the distance or not? So, the things got topsy-turvy for me and the task that I considered easy cost me my blood, sweat and tears. But then I accomplished the task somehow.
I got to learn a lot. If I tell you, I had to bear a lot of pain, but I tolerated it. One day on the way, I had pain, a lot of pain and I was thinking about the 6-7 more hours that I still had to walk for and the difficulty of the same when a small girl came to me. Now, she comes running to me and tells me that ‘I have written something for you. But you don’t read it now, read it later’ and then she ran away hugging me. Then, I thought of reading what was written in there. So, she had written that I can see that your knee is in pain, because when you put weight on that leg, the pain is visible on your face. But I want to tell you that I cannot walk with you to Kashmir because my parents are not allowing me to walk, but I am walking with you from my heart, by your side, because I know that you are walking not for yourself. You’re walking for me and you’re walking for my future and instantly, I know it’s strange, but instantly, my pain disappeared for that day.
Secondly, I was still walking and at the same time it was getting a bit cold over there. It was early morning and 4 children came. I don’t know whether I should say this or not, but let me say - there were small children, they were beggars and they came to me, they didn’t have clothes I saw. Perhaps, they worked as labourers, so there was some dirt on them. Well, these things don’t matter to me, so I hugged them. I went down on my knees and held them like this, because I wanted to be at their level and then, I did not want to say this, but if I say it, they were feeling cold, they were shivering. Perhaps, they did not get food, small children were working as laborers. So, I thought that now if they are not wearing sweaters, if they are not wearing jackets, then I should not wear it either. But why I hesitated, I want to tell you, when I finished this, I was walking, there was a person with us, he said in my ear, Rahul ji, these children are dirty, you should not go near them like this. So, I told him that they were cleaner than both of us.
So, sometimes, one comes across such ideology in the country. Let me tell you the second thing, people may not like it. When I was walking, you would have seen that many women were crying. Did you see that? Do you know why were they crying? No, many of those women were emotional and they welled up with emotions on meeting me. But there were many women among them who told me that they were raped, someone molested them, they were molested by some relative of theirs and when I used to say to them, sister, I should inform the police, they used to tell me, Rahul ji, don’t tell the police. We want you to know this, but don’t tell the police, we will be harmed even more. So, this is also a reality in our country.
I can tell you many more such stories. So then, I was coming towards Kashmir and I was thinking that on this path I am going from bottom to top. I was thinking that this is the same way from where my relatives came down from above, years ago. From Kashmir to Allahabad, we went towards Ganga and I felt like I was going back to my home. Home For me - I do not have my own house because when I was young, I have lived in government houses. So, I have never considered the structure of a house, a home. No matter where I live, it is a building for me, it is not a house. Home is an idea for me, a way of living, a way of thinking and I consider what you call ‘Kashmiriyat’ here as my home.
Now what is this ‘Kashmiriyat’ - this is the thinking of Shiv ji. If we go a little deeper on one side, then it can be called ‘Shoonyata’ (Nothingness). Attacking yourself, your ego, your thoughts and on the other hand, what is called ‘Shoonyata’ (Nothingness) here, in Islam is called ‘Fanaa’. Thinking is the same. ‘Fanaa’ in Islam means attack on yourself, attack on your thinking. We fortify ourselves with ego of I am this, I have this, I have this knowledge, I have this house - to bring that fortification down, that is ‘Shoonyata’, that is ‘Fanaa’ and these two ideologies on the earth have a very deep relationship and this has been a relationship for years, which we call ‘Kashmiriyat’. The same thinking prevails in other states as well.
Gandhi ji used to talk about ‘Vaishnav Jan To’. What we call ‘Shoonyata’, ‘Fanaa’ here, is called ‘Vaishnav Jan To’ in Gujarat. Shankardev ji also said the same thing in Assam. Basava ji said the same thing to the people who have come here from Karnataka. Narayana Guru spoke the same thing in Kerala. Jyotiba Phule ji spoke about this in Maharashtra and here we call it ‘Kashmiriyat’ - Connecting people and not attacking others, attacking yourself, seeking your shortcomings.
I told you that my family had migrated from Kashmir to the Ganges. Our house is near there on the very banks of Allahabad Sangam. So, when they went from here to there, they led to the intermingling of the idea of ‘Kashmiriyat’ with the Ganges. They carried that thought to the Ganges and spread that thought in Uttar Pradesh, which is called ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb’ in Uttar Pradesh. So, they, my family contributed in a small way to the task. What you taught them, what the people of Jammu and Kashmir taught them, the people of Ladakh taught them, because there is Buddhism in it, they also have the same thinking, the thinking of ‘Shoonyata’ there, they took that ideology and fused it with the Ganges.
So, I was thinking this - when I was coming here, I was walking and the security people told me that look, you can walk all over India, you can also walk in Jammu, but in the last four days, you must go to Kashmir by car. Venugopal ji told me earlier, and those who were organizing said, 3-4 days ago the administration said, probably to scare me, see, if you walk, a grenade will be thrown at you.
So, I thought let’s do this - I am going back to my home, I will walk for 4 days, I will walk among my family members and I thought why not give a chance to those who hate me to change the colour of my white shirt to red (holds intentional significance). Because my family has taught me, Gandhiji has taught me that if you want to live, you have to live without fear, otherwise you don’t have to live. So, I gave a chance, I said that I will walk for 4 days, change the colour of my T-shirt, make it red, let’s see what happens. But then, happened the same thing that I had expected. The people of Jammu and Kashmir did not give me a hand grenade, they gave me love, hugs and I am very happy that they all accepted me as their own and children as well as elders welcomed me here with love and tears.
Now I want to say something to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and to the people of our army, the people of CRPF who work here, everyone, the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, the children, the mothers, everyone, the CRPF, I want to tell the BSF, Army jawans, their families, their children - look, I understand violence. I have tolerated violence. I have seen violence. The one who does not tolerate violence, who has not seen violence, will not understand this. Like, Modi ji, Amit Shah ji, RSS people, they have not seen violence, they are afraid. Here we walked for 4 days, I can guarantee you that no BJP leader can walk like this and not because the people of Jammu and Kashmir will not allow them to walk, but because they are afraid.
Well, I want to tell a little something to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, to the youth, to the elders and to the people of the Army, CRPF, BSF. See, when I was 14 years old, I was in school, in the morning, in geography class, I was studying, sitting in front. One of my teachers came inside and she said, “Rahul, the Principal is calling you.” I was mischievous, quite mischievous when I was young. You can ask my sister what all I used to do and still do. I thought that the Principal was calling me because I must have made some mistake or I will be beaten, as there was a system of caning there. I thought that I would be caned, but when I was walking, I felt strange seeing the teacher who had called me.
When I reached the Principal’s office, the Principal said that Rahul there is a phone call from your house. When I heard those words, I knew something was wrong. My legs trembled and as I put the receiver to my ear, a lady who works with my mother was shouting- Rahul, your grandmother has been shot, your grandmother has been shot, your grandmother has been shot. I was just 14 years old then. Look, what I am saying now, the Prime Minister will not understand, Amit Shah will not understand, even Doval will not understand, but the people of Kashmir will understand, CRPF people will understand, Army people will understand this, their families will understand.
The worker Omu said – your grandmother has been shot, your grandmother has been shot and then they took me back to the car. I picked up Priyanka from school, we went back and then I saw the spot where my grandmother’s blood was spilled. My father and my mother came. My mother was completely shaken, she could not speak. We are the people who have seen violence. What is this, we look at it in a completely different way (showing the phone in hand said), this is a telephone for all of you, it is not just a telephone for us. After 6-7 years when I was in America, the telephone rang once again on May 21. The way telephones ring at our martyred soldiers’ houses, or at thousands of Kashmiri people’s homes, or at army families’ residences, in the same way, I received a phone call from a father’s friend. He called me and said- Rahul, there is bad news. I told him that I know instinctively that my father was dead. He confirmed, I said thank you and hung up.
So, I have to say that those who perpetrate violence like Modi ji, Amit Shah ji, Ajit Doval ji, RSS people, they cannot understand this thing, they cannot understand the pain, we can understand. I know what must have happened in the hearts of the children of the soldiers of Pulwama because the same thing happened in my heart. Those who die here in Kashmir, what happens in their families’ hearts when they get a phone call, I understand what they feel, my sister understands. So yesterday, a journalist asked me what is the aim of the yatra? He asked what does the Yatra want to achieve, what does it want to achieve in Jammu and Kashmir? I wanted to answer at that time, but I refrained and thought that I would speak tomorrow.
The aim of the yatra is to stop these phone calls, whether it is from the Army, whether it is from the CRPF, whether it is from the people of Kashmir. No child, no mother, no son has to take this phone call. So, my aim is to stop these phone calls.
Now see what the people of BJP and RSS are attacking. They abuse me, I thank them. Because I understand what I talked about with you about ‘Shoonyata’, about Shiva and I thank them from the bottom of my heart that no matter how much pressure they put on me, no matter how much they abuse me, whatever they do, I only learn from them. So, I thank them in a way, but I told you one thing before, whether it is ‘Kashmiriyat’, whether it is ‘Vaishnav Jan Toh’, whether it is Shankar Dev ji, Basava ji, Narayan Guru, Thiruvalluvar, the great poet of Tamil Nadu or Phule ji – they are attacking this ideology and these ideologies are the foundation of this country and whatever you did, whatever the travellers did, whatever we all have done, has been to protect this ideology.
I didn’t do this work for myself. I can never do such work for myself. I have not done this work..., our Congress friends may not like it, but I have not done this work for the Congress party either. I have done this work and all of us have done this work for the people of India and it is our endeavour that we stand together against this ideology which is trying to break the foundation of this country; not with hatred, because it is not our way, we must stand against it with love.
I know that if we stand with love, talk with love, we will get success and we will not only defeat their ideology, but we will remove that ideology from their hearts. So, you, the people of the country supported us. BJP has shown us a way of life - a political way. We try to show the country another way - which is the way of India, the way of love. We remind the country that India is a country of love, respect and brotherhood. So, as we had said, we have taken a small step, not a big step. “Humne nafratke bazar mein mohabbat ki dukaan kholne ki koshish ki hai.” (We have tried to dispel hatred somewhere in the spectrum of love).
Thank You. Jai Hind!