Three senior BJP leaders — Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar — were detained by the police at the Jammu airport late on Monday evening as they were preparing to take the command of the Tiranga Yatra by the party's youth wing at Srinagar's Lal Chowk. They were later driven out of the State.
The senior opposition leaders were asked to return to New Delhi but they refused. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Jaitley on phone and asked him and his other party colleagues to return to union capital since they had made their point. But the BJP leaders refused to do so and insisted that they be allowed to address a rally in Jammu.
Their request was rejected by the State government and the Centre. Chief minister Omar Abdullah sent Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda and Chief Secretary S S Kapoor for talks with the BJP leaders, who staged a protest, sit at tarmac of the airport. The officers requested Swaraj, Jaitley and Kumar to come inside the airport lounge and sit comfortably there.
The chartered plane in which the BJP leaders had landed in Jammu was not allowed to take off. The crew members of the aircraft were told by the senior police officers at the airport that the plane will take off only when the BJP leaders are ready to return to New Delhi.
Finally Swaraj, Jaitley and Kumar were taken away by the police and were later driven out of the state to Punjab in three cars. In Kashmir, additional deployment of police and security forces was made as a precautionary measure. Lal Chowk, where BJP intends to hoist the National Flag on Republic Day, remained peaceful and normal. The shops and other business establishments remained open and transport plied as usual.
However, an alert has been sounded by the security forces following intelligence inputs that militants are trying to strike in a big way on Republic Day. The authorities are also gearing up to stop the BJP yatra at Lakhanpur on Tuesday as it would move from Punjab into Jammu and Kashmir. Despite restrictions, thousands of BJP activists have already reached Jammu. They held demonstrations at Jammu airport as Sawaraj, Jaitley and Kumar landed there.
The three leaders reached Jammu in a chartered flight. Immediately after their arrival, the airport was locked and the leaders were not allowed to move out as the authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPc
“It is a draconian situation here. They have almost formed an emergency-like situation. We will not accept this order as we are free citizens of India and entitled to land in Jammu,” Kumar said, adding the three of them were sitting on a dharna on the tarmac.
BJP spokesman Jitender Singh said this is an outrageous act by the Omar Abdullah government which has detained “our leaders at the airport.” “This is a picture akin to the Emergency days," he told reporters here.
Swaraj also shared the details of the incident in a series of tweets- "We have landed in Jammu. It appears they have locked the Terminal gates. Not being allowed to go out…hey have served us an Order under S.144 CrPC... They want us to fly back… Initially they were not allowing us to deplane.
Now we have come out. We are sitting at the tarmac. DGP and other senior officers have arrived… You are under arrest' they say.” Jaitley stated that the state government cannot use Section 144 against him and his colleagues. Section 144 bans the gathering of more than four people. BJP leader says it cannot apply in this case to prohibit entry.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani also spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to register his protest over the police action describing it as “illegal”.
BJP ally and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, however, called “Ekta Yatra” “unnecessary”.
Earlier, Chidambaram telephoned Jaitley and asked him to return from Jammu. Jaitley and colleagues Swaraj and Kumar were barred from leaving the airport and going ahead with plans to hoist the national flag in Srinagar.
Chidambaram is learnt to have told Jaitely that he had “made his point and should come back now”.
According to Home ministry sources, no one would be allowed to proceed to Srinagar and “create disturbances when things are going good” in the valley.