New Delhi: Senior BJP leader LK Advani has formally complained to the Prime Minister about his party leaders who were not allowed to leave the Jammu airport after they landed there this evening.
"I talked to the Prime Minister to register protest over the way authorities prevented Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, both Leaders of Opposition in two Houses of Parliament, from entering Jammu and threatened to deport them back to Delhi," Advani told PTI.
Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar reached Jammu on a chartered plane around 4 pm. They were not allowed to enter the terminal. The Home Minister called them shortly after 6 pm to ask them to return to Delhi - they have refused.
The BJP trio intends to address a rally in Jammu tomorrow - a major stop on the BJP's controversial Ekta Yatra that's meant to culminate on Republic Day with the unfurling of the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Both the government and separatists have objected to that.
As Mr Jaitley and Ms Swaraj argued that it was illegal for them to be detained at the airport, Ms Swaraj aired her grievances with a stream of steady tweets like "We have landed in Jammu. It appears they have locked the Terminal gates. Not being allowed to go out." In her next few posts, she said, "They 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."
On Saturday, the Prime Minister issued a statement which did not name the BJP, but stressed that Republic Day "is not an occasion to score political points, to embarrass state and local administrations, to create situations that could lead to entirely avoidable problems, or to promote divisive agendas." In 1948, it was at Lal Chowk that Jawaharlal Nehru promised Kashmir a plebiscite that forms the basis of separatist discourse. The BJP says that by hoisting the flag at Lal Chowk, it wants to make the point to separatists that Kashmir is an integral part of India. "We are determined to go and hoist the national flag at the Lal Chowk. The Government should allow us to go there at our risk," said one of Ms Swaraj's tweets from the Jammu airport this evening.
Omar Abdullah's government has made it clear that large numbers of BJP activists will not be allowed to enter the state. There is tight security at Lakhanpur, the entry point into the state from Punjab.
As they managed the stand-off at the Jammu airport this evening, it was clear that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Home Minister P Chidambaram were collaborating on strategy. The state government has made it clear that it won't allow any move that could disturb the fragile peace. A little after 6 pm, Mr Chidambaram said he had phoned Mr Jaitley and told him that the BJP leader had made his point and that he should return to Delhi. The Home Minister also stressed that a public meeting was "not possible."
Mr Chidambaram did ask the state government to allow the trio of BJP leaders access to the airport lounge.
Mr Jaitley and Ms Swaraj however rejected the call to head to Delhi. Sources say they insist they will hold their rally in Jammu tomorrow. The leaders believe that if they are breaking the law, they should be arrested.
At the border with Punjab, thousands of BJP activists are also waiting to enter the state. The Ekta Yatra - a march by youth party workers of the BJP - has a single-point agenda.
As it tries to make its way into J&K, the BJP has run into severe criticism from one of its key allies - Nitish Kumar. "Given the kind of tension prevailing in the valley, this yatra has no meaning and I don't support this," said the Bihar Chief Minister.