Yatras: Outdated method to connect with masses?
In times of social media flurry, Stalin has miles to go to make an impact
DMK leader M K Stalin’s announcement on Friday to embark on a statewide yatra has raised a question as to whether yatras are still relevant in the social media age.
Stalin’s statement indicated that the ageold tradition may remain a tool for politicians to connect with people, at least for now.
Right from the days of the Independence struggle, yatras had their share of importance and perhaps the first Indian politician who made it a big success was Mahatma Gandhi. Yatras are indeed an integral part of people of India from time immemorial - in the religious sense. Devotees used to go on padayatras to holy places for months together in the past before the introduction of transport facilities and as a means to do penance to their ‘ishtadevata’ (god dear to them).
Gandhiji used padayatra and general visits to many places to create awareness among the people on particular issues. Some of the well known yatras undertaken by leaders include Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi in 1930. In the winter of 1933-34, Gandhi went on a countrywide padayatra against untouchability. Later, Vinoba Bhave also started a padayatra, as part of his ‘Bhoodan movement’ in 1951.
Starting from Telangana region, Bhave concluded his padayatra at Bodh Gaya. On January 6, 1983, former Prime Minister K Chandra Shekhar started his march from Kanniyakumari and continued his 4,260-km-journey to Raj Ghat in Delhi till June 25, 1983, to understand people’s problems.
In 1990, BJP leader L K Advani undertook a Rath Yatra across the country.
In Tamil Nadu, the late leader E V Ramasamy (Periyar) was known for visiting the nook and corner of the State to raise social issues. Though he hardly undertook padayatra, his entire life was a long yatra because he used to travel by train and van.
One of the key padayatras that made history in the State was the ‘Needhi Kettu Nedumpayanam’ (long yatra demanding justice) undertaken by DMK president M Karunanidhi during 1980-81, when M G Ramachandran was the Chief Minister. He sought justice in connection with the muder of Subramania Pillai, the jewel verification officer of Tiruchendur Subramanya Swamy Temple.
Among the contemporary politicians, MDMK general secretary Vaiko tops the list in undertaking padayatras for a record number of times. In 1994, he covered 1,600 km criticising the policies of the then AIADMK government. In 2004, he undertook a 42-day padayatra from Tirunelveli to Chennai creating awareness about the importance of linking the peninsular rivers. In 2012, he undertook a padayatra demanding prohibition. On various occasions from 1986, he also undertook padayatras on many issues, including Cauvery waters dispute, Mullaiperiyar dam issue and against Sterlite.
In his latest yatra, Stalin said he would undertake a month-long awakening yatra from November first week to December first week and that it would be on the lines of his earlier yatra - Namakku Naame - he undertook during the last Assembly elections in TN.
“During independence days, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi undertook yatras to create awareness about certain issues. But nowadays, it has lost its relevance because of the advancement in communication gadgets. The whole world is virtually in the form of a smart phone. So creating awareness through yatras is an outmoded strategy,” said senior journalist Tharasu Shyam.
“When Mahatma Gandhi met his mentor Bal Gangadhar Tilak after his return from South Africa, Tilak advised him to meet the people of the country to know their pulse. Perhaps from then on, Gandhiji undertook many yatras by foot as well as through other means. Nowadays, it is a big question whether yatras are used by politicians to know the pulse of the people. Generally, it is used to integrate party cadre and to keep the pot boiling in politics - in a nutshell, just to stay relevant,” he added.
Political analyst Ravindran Duraiswamy too agrees with the view that yatras are not relevant these days. “It is not so relevant these days with very advanced communication tools. Further, the present yatra by DMK working president M K Stalin will not serve any political purpose for him,” Duraiswamy said.
Nowadays, yatras have lost their relevance because of the advancement in communication gadgets. The whole world is virtually in the form of a smart phone. So creating awareness through yatras is an outmoded strategy Tharasu Shyam, Senior journalist