BJP protesters being removed, may be detained (Second Lead)

Monday, January 24, 2011

JAMMU - Jammu and Kashmir Police began bodily removing some BJP leaders from the Jammu airport as three top party veterans sat down on the tarmac, insisting on going ahead with their controversial national flag hoisting at Srinagar on Jan 26, ignoring appeals to desist from the move that could disturb the fragile peace in the troubled state.

Three Bharatiya Janata Party national leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar sat down on the airport tarmac after police barred them from entering the city to take part in the party’s controversial ‘Ekta Yatra’ rally. The three have been locked in the Jammu airport.

The police have arrested all the BJP workers and leaders protesting outside Jammu airport, including party legislator Chaman Lal Gupta.

The police first removed BJP workers and thereafter physically lifted Chaman Lal Gupta and MLA Ashok Khajuria. They were taken from the airport to an undisclosed destination in police vehicles.

Sources said this could be a prelude to the detention of Jaitley, Swaraj and Ananth Kumar.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, according to sources, was busy interacting with his officers at the airport who were trying to prevail upon the three BJP leaders to return to Delhi by the special aircraft in which they had come to Jammu Monday afternoon.

The authorities are also reported to be thinking of imposing curfew in Jammu to prevent any violence in some of the BJP pockets in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, sources indicated.

“We will not allow them to enter Jammu city, come what may. Thats a final decision. If they want to stay inside the terminal building, let them, an official told IANS.

He, however, did not specify whether the BJP leaders would be detained and if so then when. We are assessing the situation, he said.

Abdullah is personally directing the police action, according to police sources.

The officers were urging the BJP leaders to return by the aircraft in which they had come, but they are refusing.

According to sources, Omar Abdullah has indicated to the officers that if the BJP leaders refuse to leave Jammu, the government might have to use the option of detaining them.

Earlier, the BJP 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.

If the chief minister orders the arrest of the three national leaders, it could see history repeating itself in the state.

Fifty-eight years ago the chief minister’s grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ordered the arrest of Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in 1953 at Lakhanpur for entering the state without permit. Mukherjee died in Jammu and Kashmir while in jail.

Sources said that Omar Abdullah may decide on the BJP leaders’ arrest after consulting union Home Minister P. Chidambaram as their arrest might trigger problems for him in Hindu-dominated Jammu region, and it may not necessarily win him political space in the valley. Separatists have already expressed their opposition to the BJP’s plans to unfurl the natinal flag at Lal Chowk Jan 26.

Last week, the Omar Abdullah government decided that no programme that has the potential of vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in the state will be allowed.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police also sealed the state’s border with Punjab at Lakhanpur, 90 km south of Jammu, to prevent the BJP activists’ rally from entering the state Tuesday from Punjab.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also appealed to refrain from “promoting divisive agendas” on Republic Day.

The march, led by the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha president Anurag Thakur, started from Kolkata Jan 12.

Separatists have also given a call for a counter-march to Lal Chowk on Jan 26.

The state saw massive unrest last summer that led to the deaths of over 100 people, mostly in clashes between security forces and angry protesters.

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