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Flag fiasco deepens: BJP leaders driven to Punjab

Last updated on: January 25, 2011 01:54 IST

Flag fiasco deepens: BJP leaders driven to Punjab

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Mukhtar Ahmad

The political drama over hoisting of the national tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day continued late on Monday night as senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were arrested at Jammu airport after they refused to return to Delhi despite persuasion from state authorities.

They were taken out of Jammu the airport in a 15-vehicle conclave and brought to Madhopur, near the Punjab border. The leaders were locked up in three separate vehicles in Madhopur.

"This move by the J&K government will be strongly protested," said Jaitley.

Swaraj said that she, Jaitely and Anant Kumar will once again lead BJP workers to enter J&K on Tuesday. "If we had our say we will reach Lal Chowk at Srinagar on January 26 with large number of people to hoist the national flag," she added.

Jaitely said that the situation in the state today is worst than it was in 1953 when one needed a permit to enter the state. "Today you can physically pick up people and throw them out of the state," he said.

He described the Jammu and Kashmir government's action against them as "unprecedented and undemocratic."

After her arrest Swaraj tweeted, "You are under arrest they say. They have got our baggage. Its loaded in three cars. What next? Don't know."

The party top brass landed in Jammu to "take command" of the party programme to hoist the tricolour in Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day only to be stopped at the airport.

State Chief Secretary SS Kapoor and Director General of Police Kuldeep Khuda met the BJP leaders, who refused to budge from their stand. Insiders say that the BJP told the state authorities that they would not leave the airport premises unless they were allowed to move to Srinagar to go ahead with the flag hoisting in Lal Chowk.

The BJP leaders had earlier staged a sit-down at the Jammu airport tarmac, which ended over an hour later after the three leaders were taken to the terminal. Swaraj tweets, "We have been taken to the Terminal. Those accompanying us held at the tarmac. Arun Jaitley and Anant Kumar with me."

On arriving at the airport, Swaraj tweeted, "We have landed in Jammu. It appears that they have locked the terminal gates and we are not being allowed to go out."

"They are not allowing the plane to fly back. They are asking us to return to the plane, but have refused. We are sitting at the tarmac," she added.

The security forces took into custody over 80 BJP supporters who were protesting outside the airport in Jammu on Monday evening.

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Image: BJP senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj

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BJP calls for Jammu bandh on Tuesday

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Senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar said the party has called for Jammu bandh on Tuesaday to protest the detention and arrests of party activists proceeding to Lal Chowk in Srinagar to hoist the national tricolour on January 26.

Speaking to PTI over the phone from Jammu airport, Kumar said the party had called for a Jammu bandh in protest against this "illegal move, taken at the behest of the Manmohan Singh led
UPA government".

"The union government and the Jammu and Kashmir government are indulging in excesses like diverting train carrying the BJP activists, making preventive arrests, physically stopping the Rashtriya Ekta Yatra, which is reminiscent of the dark days of emergency," he said.

The BJP top brass headed to Jammu after several workers of BJP's youth wing -- Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha -- were prevented from entering Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday.

The opposition party has accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Omar Abdullah government of "surrendering" to separatists and showing "disproportionate and panic reaction".

The prime minister recently asked parties to desist from scoring political points or promoting divisive agendas and exercise maximum restraint to ensure that peace is not disturbed in a "sensitive" state like J&K, a remark criticised by the BJP.


Image: A policeman stands guard in front of Kashmir's clock tower at the historic Lal Chowk
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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5,000 security personnel deployed in J&K

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With the BJP showing no signs of going back on its plan to hoist the national flag at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on January 26, nearly 5,000 security personnel have been deployed at the border of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, which has been sealed, to prevent activists of the party's youth wing from entering the state.

"Nearly 5,000 security personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force and police have been deployed all along the Punjab-J&K border and it has been fully sealed ahead of the arrival of Rastriya Ekta Yatra at Lakhanpur inter-border terminal in Kathua district," said a senior police official.

The police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force equipped with multi-barrel tear smoke vehicles have been deployed at Lakhanpur, the inter-state border in Kathua district of Jammu region.

Security around Lal Chowk, the venue of the proposed BJP flag hoisting has been heightened, as also the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front announced a counter march on January 26. "Nobody will be permitted to disrupt the peace and tranquility in the city as we have made adequate arrangements to hold hassle free Republic Day functions here," said a senior police officer.

The district magistrate of Srinagar has imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC prohibiting the assembly five or more persons in the entire district.

Image: Security has been beefed up in Jammu, ahead of the yatra
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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BJP is trying to spoil peace and normalcy in Kashmir: JK govt

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The J&K government has named Gareeb Dass, DIG Crime, Intelligence and Vigilance, as the officer on special duty for security in the Samba-Kathua range.

"We will not allow peace in Jammu and Kashmir to be disturbed. The state government has already directed the security agencies to ensure that there is no trouble in the state by hoisting of the tricolour in Srinagar by the BJYM," a senior official said.

Sources said police and civil officers of Jammu and Kashmir districts held a meeting with their counterparts at Pathankote in Punjab to seek their help to thwart the activists' attempts of entering J&K from Punjab but the officers refused to help.

The ruling National Conference accused the BJP of attempting to ruin peace and normalcy in Kashmir and said its government will not allow the party's youth wing to carry out its plan of hoisting the national flag in Srinagar. "The BJP is trying to spoil peace and normalcy in Kashmir. We will not allow the BJP to hoist the national flag in Srinagar, as that is not in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir," said senior NC leader and J&K Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar.



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