Ya­tras: Out­dated method to con­nect with masses?

In times of so­cial me­dia flurry, Stalin has miles to go to make an im­pact

Sunday Express - - CHENNAI - T MURUGANANDHAM @ Chen­nai

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

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