Yatra stopped to please separatists: BJP; flag hoisted at Madhopur (Roundup)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

JAMMU/SRINAGAR - Top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were released Wednesday by Jammu and Kashmir government after two days’ arrest that foiled the party’s move to hoist the national flag in Srinagar’s historic Lal Chowk on Republic Day.

A livid Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, slammed the central and state governments, accusing them of “hijacking and abducting” party leaders to stop the “Ekta Yatra” (integration march) in order to please the separatists in Kashmir.

Hundreds of BJP activists later hoisted the tricolour near the Madhopur bridge that separates Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab to mark the country’s 62nd Republic Day.

Jaitley, along with Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Ananth Kumar and Shanta Kumar were earlier freed from the hotel in Kathua in Punjab where they were held since Tuesday evening after their arrest.

Talking to reporters outside the hotel, Swaraj said: “Tiranga Yatra has concluded because it was to culminate on Jan 26 - Republic Day.”

At a press conference in Jammu, Jaitley took on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and the Jammu and Kashmir government, accusing them of engaging in “illegal actions” to stop the Ekta Yatra that was to have concluded in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk with the hoisting of the tricolour.

“Both the central and the state governments have surrendered ideologically and psychologically to separatists,” Jaitley said.

He was also referring to Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, charged with murder of four Indian Air Force officers, who had declared that his outfit would not allow the BJP to hoist the national flag at the historic Lal Chowk.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also had spoken against the BJP’s plan and ordered the state machinery to do everything to stop the yatra and foil the BJP move.

Jaitley said the central government and the ministries of home and railways were guilty of “the crime of hijacking” by diverting the trains carrying the BJP workers on their way to join the “Ekta Yatra”.

In New Delhi, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari said that the march to Srinagar was to defy anti-India elements in Kashmir.

He denied that the BJP was trying to derive political mileage from the march.

“Some people say there is politics in hoisting the national flag at Lal Chowk. What politics was involved in hoisting the flag. This is not politics but our duty,” Gadkari told reporters after hoisting the tricolour at the party headquarters in the capital.

Jaitley, Sawraj and Ananth Kumar were detained at Jammu airport Monday and taken to Madhopur in Punjab.

They again marched to Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday with hundreds of the party workers carrying the national flags and were stopped at Lakhanpur, the gateway to the state.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah late Tuesday night ordered their release and tweeted it as a “goodwill gesture.”

He also phoned Jaitley, urging him to take part in the Republic Day celebrations either in Jammu or in Srinagar.

Sushma Swaraj Wednesday mocked at Abdullah’s invitation.

“We were given release orders at 12.40 p.m. while the official functions were over at 10 a.m. How could the chief minister expect the two leaders to attend the Republic Day function when they were in jail?” she said at the press conference.

Later Wednesday, with their yatra to Lal Chowk that began Jan 12 in Kolkata stopped midway, hundreds of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) activists hoisted the tricolour at the Madhopur bridge, near the memorial to the late Jana Sangh founder-leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

Anurag Thakur, BJYM president and member of parliament, who was leading the march and was arrested along with other BJP leaders, returned to take part in the flag hoisting ceremony.

In Srinagar, about 10 BJP activists were held by police while attempting to march towards Lal Chowk to hoist the flag.

Police also rounded JKLF leader Yasin Malik, who had announced a counter-march to Lal Chowk, moderate Hurriyat Conference leaders Bilal Lone and Shahidul Islam and a dozen of their supporters from Maisuma locality on their way to the city centre.

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