Rahul Gandhi and other leaders are being ferried in a white bus
India's reputation has taken a hit, said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who along with several other party leaders, is visiting the violence-hit areas in northeast Delhi today in a show of solidarity with the victims. This is the party's first visit to the area, where 48 people died and more than 200 were injured in spiralling violence over four days last week.
"India's image takes a hit when there is violence in the country, in its capital. Brotherhood, love have been burnt here. This is the loss of Hindustan, Bharat Mata. Our reputation in the world has been burnt," the former Congress chief said after visiting a school that was vandalised in the Brijpuri locality.
"This school is the future of India. Hate and violence has destroyed it. This violence is on no benefit to Bharat Mata. Everybody has to work together and take India forward at this time," he added.
The Congress MPs are being ferried in a white tourist bus, which is expected to make several stops in the area. Mr Gandhi and party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala are expected to visit Brijpuri, one of the epicentres of the violence.
"Give up hatred, not social media accounts," Mr Gandhi had responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tweet two days ago, where he appeared to hint at quitting the social media. He ws also seen at the party's protest near the Gandhi status in parliament yesterday.
The Congress, along with other opposition parties, has been demanding a discussion on the violence in parliament. While the government has indicated that it is ready for one, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has set a date after Holi, which has hugely upset the opposition.
The tug-of-war over the issue has led to uproar in parliament and frequent adjournments, and very little legislative work has been conducted over the last two days.
Today's visit has been one of the few outreach efforts by Mr Gandhi since the Lok Sabha elections. The 49-year-old had stepped down from the party chief's post after its disastrous performance in the general election and kept his public appearances to a minimum.
Unlike other times when students had been targeted by the authorities, he did not visit Jamia after the police crackdown or the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University after the violence there. For much of the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests — seen as a huge regroup and pushback opportunity for the opposition — Mr Gandhi has been out of the country. The frequent trips had triggered a jibe from Union minister Babul Supriyo, who advised him to go for a "roaming data pack".
Sources said Mr Gandhi has also made it clear that he would not take up the party top post again, amid the huge leadership crisis. There has been speculation on whether Mr Gandhi would roll back his decision on quitting – the final decision on the leadership issue is to be taken at the party's plenary session likely to be held in mid-April.