CHENNAI: DMK leader M K Stalin’s announcement last week 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 age-old 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 the 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 the Telangana region, Bhave concluded his padayatra at Bodh Gaya. On January 6, 1983, former Prime Minister 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. 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.
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 Tamil Nadu.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.
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.