Updated: March 13, 2021 3:38:56 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the commemorative Dandi March from near Abhay Ghat in Ahmedabad on Friday, where 81 marchers will walk the 386-kilometre route from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, marking the launch of the celebrations of 75 years of Independence.
Several “BJP karyakartas” from Madhya Pradesh have also joined the first 75-kilometre leg of the march led by Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel, from the Dandi Bridge.
The marchers set off from a round near Abhay Ghat, raising slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, and “Jai Shri Ram”, while Prahalad Patel joined them at Dandi Bridge, nearly 700 metres away.
At the entry of the historic bridge was a banner of ‘Vishwa Hindu Parishad’ put up by its spokesperson Devji Rawat, welcoming the Prime Minister. At its exit, slumdwellers, primarily women and children, pushed through the tarpaulin cloth barricades to greet the marchers, precariously perching on to road dividers.
“I rushed while making rotis, without even wearing chappals to see Modi. We have daughters and we like that he says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao..,” says Anjali Dantani, waving her flour-coated hands. Dantani, a slum dweller has an eight-year old daughter and a four-year old son.
Autorickshaw driver and Gomtipur-resident Dayabhai Rathod, whose daughter is a Class 11 student at Vinay Mandir, was concerned how his daughter would get back home with roads cordoned off. “She walked till Vatva and took a bus. Otherwise I drop off and pick her up from school,” Rathod said.
As marchers walked vigorously, among those walking the first 75-kilometre stretch were several BJP workers from Madhya Pradesh. “We were informed on March 8 that we are attending this yatra… I have been associated with Prahalad Patel for several years,” said Vikas Yadav (35), a BJP karyakarta from Indore.
Narmada Singh (50), who said he was a “social activist” from Damoh in Madhya Pradesh, nearly 30 persons came from Damoh to participate in the 75-kilometre stretch of the march. Narmada said she was chosen for the commemorative Dandi Yatra as she had participated in a “padyatra” in 2019 from Anandpur to Damoh in Madhya Pradesh.
A 44-year-old school teacher from Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh who is “involved with BJP” and who did not wish to be named, said he had earlier done a 15-day padyatra in 2001 through a “Naxalite zone” in his district. He said he was informed only on March 9 to join in from Damoh in the march from Sabarmati Ashram to Nadiad.
“I don’t know what the route is or where we will stop. We will go wherever we are asked to,” the marcher added, as he trailed behind the group of marchers.
While some local residents on Ashram Road (nearly 2 kilometres from the starting point) peered curiously as the queue of marchers passed by, heading towards the Income Tax circle which has a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, some others from the crowd raised slogans of ‘Gandhi Baapu zindabad’.
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