Police arrangements collapsed: Rahul on ‘Breach’ during Bharat Jodo in J&K

The Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is due to conclude next week in Srinagar, halted on Friday shortly after entering the Kashmir Valley due to security breach, the grand old party has said. Led by Rahul Gandhi, who was joined by former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah in his foot march, the Yatra halted at the Banihal Tunnel in Kashmir on Friday afternoon, people familiar with matter said. “This morning, we had a huge crowd that had gathered. But unfortunately, the police arrangement completely collapsed. Cops who had to hold the crowd were nowhere to be seen. So my security people were very much concerned with me continuing. So I had to cancel my walk..while other people continued,” Rahul Gandhi said at a briefing. “I think it’s very important that the police manages the crowd so we can continue the march. It’s very difficult for me to go against what my security people are recommending,” he added. “I don’t know why it happened but this should not happen tomorrow and day after.” Gandhi was scheduled to lead the march for 16 km from Banihal to Anantnag, Jairam Ramesh told reporters, but he had to stop after 4 km.

Hundreds of party workers had lined up on both sides of the Banihal tunnel to welcome Rahul Gandhi. Later, villagers and Congress workers – who had assembled near the tunnel on Kashmir side – entered into the rope cordon, as per the inputs gathered. More than an hour later, the foot march took a pause at the Industrial Estate Vessu in Anantnag. Rahul Gandhi reached Dak Bungalow, Anantnag, as Omar Abdullah left for Srinagar.

Several Congress leaders lashed out at the administration over what they called “a serious security lapse”. Jairam Ramesh termed it “a big security breach” and said they hope for next two days proper security will be provided to yatra. Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Vikar Rasool said that “tomorrow the yatra will resume from Awantipora and will end at Pathachowk on the outskirts of Srinagar.” Priyanka Gandhi is likely to join yatra on Saturday when more women participating is also expected. “The sudden withdrawal of security personnel from the D-area has caused a serious security breach at the Bharat Jodo Yatra at Banihal, Kashmir. Who ordered this? The authorities responsible must answer for this lapse & take appropriate steps to prevent such incidents in future. (sic),” Congress veteran KC Venugopal tweeted.

Another Congress leader Rajani Patil wrote in a tweet: “J&K UT Adminstration failed to provide security to #BharatJodoYatra led by Shri @RahulGandhi Security lapses indicate unfair & unprepared attitude of UT adminstration. @OfficeOfLGJandK. (sic)”

The party started its Kanyakumari to Kashmir foot march in September, primarily with an aim to connect with the masses and highlight the challenges the country is currently facing in an apparent attempt to attack the ruling BJP.

Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh slammed the grand old party and Rahul Gandhi, saying: “Is India broken that they are trying to unite it?” On Friday, Jairam Ramesh – in an apparent response to Rajnath – said: “We are not saying that India is breaking. We are saying that there are many challenges. The Yatra is not linked to electoral politics.”

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