Mumbai/Kolkata: The great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Tushar Arun Gandhi on November 18 walked along with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY), a walk organized by Indian National Congress to unite India. The yatra began on September 7 and the yatris (participants) will walk around 3500 kilometres from Kanyakumari to Kashmirand will be concluding in January. Tushar Gandhi, the author of The Lost Diary of Kastur, My Ba and Let’s Kill Gandhi joined the BJY in Maharashtra. Congress termed it ‘historic.’ Sister of Tushar, Archana Prasad, who lives in New York shared the picture of Rahul Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi walking together on social media.
On Saturday late night, when Tushar returned to Mumbai, eNewsroom India rang him up to talk about the importance of the yatra, his participation and more. Following are the excerpts.
eNewsroom: Why do you feel a yatra like Bharat Jodo is the need of the hour for India?
Tushar: At the moment the society is being subjugated by hate. Hatred has become a tool to grab power. It is being effectively used during election campaigns, creating rifts in society and on social media. You see unrestricted hate everywhere hatred is dominant, which is very dangerous.
It is because of this so many gruesome incidents took place in India.
Recently, a 9-year-old boy in Rajasthan was killed for drinking water from a pitcher meant for the upper caste people in the school.
And the way in which the rapists and murderers in the Bilkis Bano case were released, and treated like heroes by the society shows how hatred is dehumanizing us. This is a very dangerous thing for society to survive.
Hate cannot be countered by hate, or defeated by hate. It has to be countered by love and transformation. Hate has to be transformed into love.
So, a proactive effort like this is praise-worthy.
eNewsroom: Why did you think of walking along with Rahul Gandhi?
Tushar: I was very concerned about this dominance and normalization of hate in our society. I have been thinking about what needs to be done to counter this. When Bharat Jodo Yatra was about to start, I considered it a positive thing. So I decided to participate in the yatra. I would have joined for a longer time unfortunately I could only give a day to it. Still, it is important.
Personally it is also about keeping alive the tradition of the two families—Nehru family and the Gandhi family. The ancestors of the two generations have associated with each other at the time of India’s need.
Right from Motilal (Nehru) Ji, when Bapu did the Dandi Cooch, Pandit Nehru was the one who used to guide AICC and Bapu, whenever he was on yatra.
During Dandi March, when it reached Jambusar, both Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru joined the yatris. They jointly held the Jan Sabha in Jambusar, where both spoke along with Bapu.
Then in 1947, at Noakhali, when it was Bapu, once again fighting politics of hate, Nehru visited him and briefed Bapu on what was happening in Delhi, he also briefed him about the violence in Bihar, and carried his (Bapu’s) messages.
In 2005, when I celebrated the 75th anniversary of Dandi March and re-enacted it, Rahul Gandhi came to walk with me for a day. Later on the final day, Sonia Gandhi Ji too joined the Yatra, so I felt that the tradition should be continued.
The tradition is important and people should be reminded of it.
eNewsroom: People would like to know what you and Rahul Gandhi talked about during the walk.
Tushar: We talked about our shared family history. Rahul had questions about the history of Bapu’s younger days like – why he went to England to study and why he went to South Africa to work. We talked about the politics of hate, about Bapu’s travels to discover India. I told him about my birth on a train while it had stopped at Shegaon. He asked me if due to my birth on a train I had become a compulsive traveller. I told him I wasn’t a compulsive traveller but I have an affinity for travelling. We also talked about how hate is propagated and how atrocities elicit more intense hatred.
eNewsroom: A lot is being said about Rahul Gandhi’s compassionate behaviour during the yatra, do you also have to share something?
Tushar: During the yatra there was one group of women and girls trying to catch Rahul’s eye. They looked very forlorn and sad. Finally their leader got through to Rahul. He leads a movement for Manual Scavengers and their families in Maharashtra. The group of women and girls were widows and daughters of manual scavengers who had died while cleaning choked sewers. Rahul immediately told the security to allow the group to come through the cordon and meet him. The women broke down on meeting him. He embraced each one of them, wiped their tears and compassionately listened to their woes. He had no solution to offer to them to lessen their plight but they were overwhelmed by his compassion and for a few moments it lessened their grief. I got to witness this from very close. Rahul was moved by their plight and offered genuine solace to the aggrieved women and girls and made them smile. That is a part of his personality that is winning the hearts of people.
eNewsroom: Do you feel, leaders of all the opposition parties, should also walk in Bharat Jodo Yatra?
Tushar: As far as political parties are concerned, I believe every Indian who wants love and inclusiveness should be participating in the yatra, beyond political identity. Although it is a predominately Congress-organized event, it is not exclusively a Congress event. So every Indian has been welcomed with open arms and that is how it should be. If political pettiness comes in the way, it will be a self-defeating attitude.
eNewsroom: In recent times, India’s image has been ruined globally, will this yatra help improve it?
Tushar: I do not care what the world would think about us. I really don’t care about what is happening to us that is more important. We need to cure this growing malice, hatred.
eNewsroom: Is the media doing justice to this movement which aims to unite the country?
Tushar: It is very reprehensible that the media and especially the electronic media is apathetic towards the yatra, which is turning into a national event. It shows how the media has become devoid of ethics.
eNewsroom: The Yatra has covered half of its journey, do you believe it is achieving its mission?
Tushar: More needs to be done.., much more needs to be done. But it is a beginning, a correct beginning. The yatra is giving hope.., the hope that there is a possibility of eradicating hate. That is the greatest achievement of the yatra.