By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Jan 30 (EFE).- The five-month-long unity march from south to north of India by Rahul Gandhi, a scion of India’s once-first political family, ended in the snow-clad disputed Kashmir on Monday.
Gandhi, 52, hoisted the Indian national flag at the history Lal Chowk, or Red Square, of Srinagar, the region’s biggest city, to mark the end of the march that began on Sep.7 from the southern tip of Kanyakumari.
Hundreds of his supporters and leaders from other political parties cheered, braving the bone-chilling cold and the season’s heaviest snowfall in the troubled Himalayan region.
Gandhi, a lawmaker from the opposition Indian National Congress, noted that the march was to unite the country that he often says is being divided into religious and caste lines under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress party leader addressed a rally from an open podium at a cricket stadium in Srinagar as it snowed big flakes, enveloping the valley under a thick white blanket.
Hundreds of gun-totting police and paramilitary soldiers dotted the rally venue and restricted entry to the stadium to only those with special security passes.
Gandhi said the march was not for him or the Congress party but sought to safeguard the foundation of the country that had come under attack from the ideology of hate spread by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideologue Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“We have tried to open a shop of love in the bazaar of hatred,” Gandhi said in an impassioned speech.
The politician said that “those who spread violence like PM Modi and” his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval would not understand the pain of losing loved ones to the fury of hatred.
“We understand it,” he said, recalling the killing of his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father, Rajiv Gandhi, to terror attacks in India.
The march that covered 3,570 km (more than 2,200 miles) crossed 12 regions.
As he entered Kashmir, Gandhi struck a conciliatory tone for the Muslim-majority region that was stripped of its semi-autonomous status by Modi on Aug.5, 2019, followed by a crackdown against politicians and a months-long communication blackout.
The Modi government divided the erstwhile state into two federally-ruled regions.
Kashmir has been battling decades of an armed insurgency against Indian rule.
The idyllic Himalayan region is claimed by both India and Pakistan, which rule the divided territory in parts. EFE