BJP leaders protest at Jammu airport

Monday, January 24, 2011

JAMMU - High drama erupted at the Jammu airport Monday after BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar sat on the tarmac after police barred them from entering the city to take part in the party’s controversial “Ekta Yatra” rally.

The furious Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were locked in arguments with police officers after they were told that their presence in Jammu could cause trouble in view of the party’s plans to unfurl the national flag in the heart of Srinagar on Republic Day Wednesday.

In her comments on Twitter, Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, said she and her colleagues were protesting and would not budge.

“The government has the right to arrest us but they cannot deport us,” she said. Officials then took away the mobile telephones of all three leaders.

The move triggered noisy demonstrations outside the airport by BJP activists. In New Delhi, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the central and state governments of trying to provoke his party but said the strategy would not succeed.

Prasad accused the Jammu and Kashmir authorities of “repression”.

Officials hurriedly locked the gates of the Jammu airport to prevent the three from entering Jammu city, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir and a known BJP stronghold.

Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar flew in by a special aircraft. Police told them to return to Delhi but they refused.

As BJP activists began gathering outside the airport in large numbers, police reinforcements were also brought in, leading to tension in the city.

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