Omar govt flags down agitators

Republic Day: BJP activists, separatists arrested to maintain peace

Undeclared curfew with unprecedented security measures marked Republic Day in the entire Kashmir region. BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar rejected Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s invitation to attend a government Republic Day function either in Jammu or Srinagar. They hoisted the Tricolour at Kathua and announced the end of their “Tiranga Yatra.”

Later, the BJP supporters in Jammu attacked the car of a National Conference minister, who escaped unhurt in the incident. The police had to resort to cane charge to rescue the minister. On Tuesday night, the police and security forces completely sealed Lal Chowk. Heavy deployment of men in uniform was made in Srinagar city, where an undeclared curfew was enforced. Even the Press Colony near Lal Chowk was put under siege.

Journalists were only allowed to cover the official Republic Day function at Bakshi Stadium, where Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather unfurled the National Flag and addressed a small gathering.
As cops and security personnel were on high alert at Lal Chowk, six BJP activists suddenly emerged from a hotel and tried to move towards the Clock Tower to hoist the Tricolour. But their attempt was foiled by the police and they were arrested.

Another BJP activist was arrested at Regal Chowk and seven others from another hotel near Polo View. They, too, were heading towards Lal Chowk. Senior separatist leader Yasin Malik, accompanied by other leaders and supporters, moved from the Maisuma area and tried to move towards Lal Chowk to hoist their flag.

However, their march was foiled and Yasin and 13 others were arrested. “They were arrested as they violated the prohibitory orders,” said Abdul Hamid, a police official. Various separatist groups had called for a total general strike in Kashmir on Republic Day. A Hurriyat spokesman said: “The total strike in Kashmir is again the verdict of the people. The government and the BJP must read the writing on the wall.”

The state government on Tuesday had stopped the BJP yatra, heading towards Lal Chowk, at Lakhanpur on the border of Jammu and Kashmir and arrested Swaraj, Jaitley and Kumar along with over 500 party workers. They were later released.

The BJP leaders strongly condemned their arrest and stopping of their yatra.  “This is unprecedented. We were not allowed to hoist the National Flag,” said Jaitley. Swaraj said: “Is it not unfortunate that both leaders of opposition were in jail on Republic Day?”

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