Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha launched a 3,000-km march from Mumbai to New Delhi today to push for the withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Act and condemn "state-sponsored violence" across the country. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar flagged off the march from the Gateway of India in south Mumbai.
Called the "Gandhi Shanti Yatra", it will cross five states - Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana - before culminating in New Delhi's Rajghat on January 30, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.
Several organisations - including those representing farmers - will participate in the march, Mr Sinha said.
"We will not let the country be divided. We will go by constitution. We will not let anyone kill Gandhi," Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP leader, said at the flagging-off event.
"The government is using dictatorial policies. What happened in JNU is being opposed across the country. The government's dictatorship needs to be answered with Gandhi-ji's way of non-violence," a statement said quoting Mr Pawar, after the march was launched.
The three purposes of the march are to seek the repeal of the amended Citizenship Act; demand a judicial probe into instances of "state-sponsored violence" such as the attack on Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University; and draw a concrete assurance from the government in parliament that there will not be a nationwide National Register of Citizens, he had said on Wednesday at a press meet.
He was accompanied by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, former MP Shatrughan Sinha and Vidarbha Congress leader Ashish Deshmukh for the media briefing.
Mr Sinha - a member of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet - quit the BJP last year. He has not minced words in criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. In April 2018, the former minister had declared that he was retiring from politics and focus on launching a nationwide campaign to save democracy.
"I am quitting the BJP because of the party's condition... Democracy in India is in great danger," he had told reporters then.