New Delhi: BJP's controversial Ekta Yatra is on its way to Jammu. The aim of the yatra, led by BJP's youth leaders, is to unfurl the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day.
The party's top national leaders have decided to join the party youth wing's tiranga yatra. Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar are flying to Jammu shortly.
The party says hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk is to challenge the separatists.
But the state government is adamant that it will stop anything that increases tension. And they have neither granted nor denied permission for the BJP national leaders to hold a rally.
In fact sources say the state government may detain and turn back Jaitley, Swaraj and Kumar at the airport or, depending upon the situation, allow them into the city.
There is heavy security and all entry points from Punjab are sealed to stop the yatra from getting into Jammu and Kashmir.
Riot control vehicles and water cannons have been deployed and additional companies of CRPF and police are posted on all the entry points from Punjab into J&K.
During the weekend, six BJP leaders were arrested and a train carrying party workers to Jammu was sent back to Karnataka without the passengers coming to know. (Read: Train with BJP activists sent back)
The BJP later hit out at the crackdown on its workers in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in the country calling it a 'disproportionate and panic reaction'. (Read)
"Is hoisting national flag a provocative issue?" asked senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley in New Delhi, adding, "We condemn the move of the Government in repressing the yatra. I have been told that all borders into J&K are blocked, trains carrying activists being cancelled, diverted. The BJP's yatra has been absolutely peaceful."
In its Kolkata to Kashmir Ekta Yatra the BJP's youth wing is aiming to lead thousands of its members to raise the tricolour at Lal Chowk on Republic Day. The BJP says it's a challenge to the separatists.
"No penal action has been taken against separatists. Separatists' meet was called expression of free speech. Government is psychologically surrendering to separatists. We are not apologetic about hoisting the national flag," said Jaitley.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appealed to the BJP not to go ahead with the yatra but the party will not change its mind.
In a strongly-worded statement, the PM had said, "The Republic Day is not an occasion to score political points or promote divisive agendas. I call upon all concerned to observe maximum restraint in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir." (Read: Don't promote divisive agenda, appeals the PM)
Reacting to the Prime Minister's remarks in his blog, senior BJP Leader LK Advani wrote, "I wish the PM realises that these young men led by Anurag Thakur are not trying to score a political point; they are challenging the separatists. And the State is surrendering to them!"
Ekta Yatra - route to Lal Chowk:
From Hoshiarpur in Punjab, the yatra will go to Amritsar and Gurdaspur and then enter Jammu and Kashmir after passing Pathankot. The crucial point of entry is Lakhanpur at the border between the two states.