Rahul stops Yatra briefly to pay tributes to CRPF men killed in 2019 bombing

Srinagar :  A day after an alleged security breach, the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra went smoothly on Saturday.

On the day two of the Yatra in Kashmir, Rahul’s yatra started from Awantipora and it stopped for a brief time at the Lethpora along the Srinagar Jammu highway to pay tributes to the CRPF personnel killed in a suicide bombing on February 14, 2019.

Lethpora was the spot where an explosive-laden vehicle driven by a local suicide bomber of Jaish-e-Mohammad rammed into a CRPF convoy on February 2019, killing 40 of the personnel. The Lethpora attack had brought India and Pakistan at the brink of war.

Rahul paid respects to CRPF personnel killed in the deadly attack.

The former Congress president paid tributes to CRPF men day after veteran Congress leader Digvijay Singh questioned the surgical strike. However, Rahul had distanced himself from Digvijay’s statement.

The rally which began from Chursoo Awantipora village was joined by People Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti along with her daughter and mother. Rahul’s sister and Congress leader Priyana Gandhi joined the yatra at Lethpora for the last few kilometers before the culmination of Saturday’s programme.

Officials said the security along the Srinagar Jammu highway was stepped up on Saturday to ensure smooth Yatra in Kashmir. A three-tier security was in place for the yatra on Saturday, officials said

On Friday, Rahul had to halt the rally in Kashmir after allegations of “security lapses”. The J&K police had refuted allegations of failed security.

“The security arrangements unlike yesterday were adequate,” General Secretary Incharge Communication, Congress Jairam Ramesh said.

The Yatra has created a lot of buzz in Kashmir and a large number of people joined the Yatra on foot. A large number of people continuously joined the Yatra all along the route.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started in Kanyakumari on September 7, will conclude on January 30 in Srinagar.

After the Yatra, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the Bharat Jodo Yatra was like a breath of fresh air in Kashmir as it allowed people to come out of their homes in numbers for the first time since 2019- when J&K special status was scrapped.

“Rahul Gandhi’s yatra comes like a breath of fresh air in Kashmir. It is the first time since 2019 that Kashmiris have come out of their homes in such massive numbers.

Mufti’s joining the Rahul led Yatra evoked criticism from BJP.

“Will Rahul Gandhi apologise for rubbing shoulders with those who advocate two flags and two laws in J&K, or else he too supports the same. Hopeful Rahul tenders apology in Lal Chowk on January 30 for holding hands of those who oppose JK’s integration with Indian Union,” BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur said.

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah, who joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra on Friday, said it has generated good response from Kashmiris but TV channels and experts are silent on it.

“The talking heads are largely silent & the channels don’t really want to talk about it but you don’t have to be visually challenged to see the #BharatJodaYatra has got a very good response from Kashmiris. Young & old, men & women, have been lining the road & marching for unity,” he tweeted on Saturday. “The most glaring silence has been from those “Kashmir experts” who waste no opportunity to paint Kashmiris as anti-national, communal, intolerant. The public participation flies in the face of this propaganda & that explains the total radio silence.”