Sheikh Imran Bashir / Mukhtar Baba
Agence India Press
New Delhi/ Jammu: The senior BJP leader, who along with other party leaders, has been stopped at Lakhanpur on the J&K border, says this is a panic reaction of the government and that they are determined to enter the state to hoist the national flag.
BJP workers led by senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Anurag Thakur crossed over into Jammu and Kashmir to hoist the national flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Wednesday.
Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are among 500 BJP workers who’ve been arrested after their Ekta Yatra crossed the one-kilometre bridge that has one end in Punjab and the other at Lakhanpur in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Omar Abdullah government has shut down highways to foil the yatra, schools have been closed as well. The government has suspended traffic on the Jammu-Pathankot and Jammu-Srinagar highways and sealed off all entry points to the state.
Before moving across the bridge in a rath, Swaraj and Jaitley addressed a marathon four-hour rally at Madhopur in Punjab.
“Crossed the bridge,” tweeted Swaraj, posting a few minutes later, “We’ve been stopped.” Courting arrested, Jaitley and Swaraj gave detailed statements to the process from the door of the BJP rath.
“This is a panic reaction by the J&K government,” said Jaitley. “The flag will definitely fly at Lal Chowk in Srinagar tomorrow,” declared Swaraj.
Swaraj and Jaitley were evicted to Madhopur late last night after a five-hour enforced stay at the Jammu airport. They landed on a chartered flight at 3:20 pm yesterday. The local administration greeted them with the news that they would not be allowed to leave the airport for Jammu city, where they were scheduled to hold a rally this morning.
For several hours, the BJP leaders protested on the tarmac. Swaraj shared her predicament with a steady shower of tweets. Around 6 pm, Home Minister P Chidambaram called Jaitley and asked him to return to Delhi.
“I spoke to Arun Jaitley and Omar Abdullah. I told Jaitley that he and his colleagues had made their point and that they should not defy the orders of the State Government which was the best judge to decide whether there was a threat to law and order and public peace. I requested them to return to Delhi. The BJP leaders were also offered an opportunity to address a press conference at Jammu airport and, thereafter, leave Jammu & Kashmir. Regrettably, they turned down the offer.”
The BJP leaders refused, but were moved into a VIP lounge at the airport. At 9 pm, they were moved in separate cars out of the airport. Swaraj, on twitter, explained, “The state administration told us we are being taken to the jail.”
Instead, a huge convoy zipped down the highway, video cameras recording each BJP leader’s car separately. Three hours later, Swaraj and Jaitely found themselves involuntarily crossing the Punjab border into Madhopur.
Jaitley said today that the prevention of the BJP yatra by the Centre and state governments is “total psychological surrender to separatists.” He also stressed that till last evening, when the Home Minister phoned him at the Jammu airport asking him to fly back to Delhi, the Central government had made no effort to talk to the BJP about its plans for its Srinagar yatra. “What the government did by diverting trains and expelling leaders’ amounts to hijack,” he said. “The state government and Centre worked in tandem to set an unprecedented example. I hold the Prime Minister responsible – as he heads the government which is denying basic rights.”
The J&K state government has sealed the border with Punjab. Lakhanpur – the entry point into J&K – has turned into a near fortress.
Swaraj says that if her party is kept out of Jammu and Kashmir, they will sit on a dharna at the border till tomorrow morning.
The Home Minister continues to throw his weight behind Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. “The state government has made it clear that it would not allow the BJP leaders to cross the bridge connecting Madhopur and Lakhanpur and enter Jammu & Kashmir. The BJP leaders should respect the orders passed by the State Government. It would be most unfortunate if the BJP leaders defy the restrictions placed by the State Government or deliberately cause a breach of the peace.”
Meanwhile, reaction of stopping BJP’s flag yatra in Jammu and Kashmir had its echo at a meeting of a key MCD panel today with the ruling BJP members creating a ruckus, raising slogans and passing a condemnation resolution.
As soon as the meeting of the MCD Standing Committee started, BJP members, carrying tricolour flags, raised slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Kashmir Hamara Hai’ (Kashmir is ours). The sloganeering went on for nearly half-an-hour before the meeting was adjourned without taking up the agenda.
BJP councillors also came to the well and shouted slogans against Congress, accusing it of supporting a government in Jammu and Kashmir which is “resorting to undemocratic practices”.
BJP councillors called it a “shame on democracy” and a move reminiscent of the days of Emergency. They accused the state government of strengthening the hands of separatists and said Congress “has no place to hide its face”.
Leader of Opposition in MCD J K Sharma later told Agence India Press correspondent that the move of the ruling side in stalling the MCD meeting was “illogical”.
“The ruling party has the responsibility of running the meeting. If they love the flag so much they can hoist it at their homes, in their areas…no, all they want is to vitiate the atmosphere and create division in society,” he alleged.
Deputy Chairperson of Standing Committee Sarita Chaudhry, however, said, “We wanted to send a message by stalling the meeting. There was high emotion involved.”
Meanwhile, in Jammu, the police lathicharged BJP workers at the Parade ground on Tuesday afternoon. Around 400 workers were detained and the party had to scale down its march. The BJP has said that only 500 workers will try to cross over from Punjab to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jawahar tunnel in Banihal – through which the yatra was to pass – also has been closed.
All schools in Jammu too have been closed as part of security measures. (AIP)
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