BJP leaders held on Republic Day to thwart Kashmir plan

Senior leaders of the main opposition BJP have been arrested to prevent them entering Indian-administered Kashmir for a flag-raising ceremony.Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were detained as soon as they crossed from neighbouring Punjab state late on Tuesday.Their attempts to hoist the Indian flag in Srinagar for Republic Day now appear to have ended, correspondents say.The plan had prompted fears of violence in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley.Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appealed to the BJP to call off the protest.He said Republic Day on Wednesday should not be used to promote “divisive agendas”.The chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, had warned the flag-hoisting would provoke separatists.Mr Abdullah has now invited the detained BJP leaders to come to Srinagar for the Republic Day ceremony, which is being held amid tight security.On Monday, the three leaders were turned back at Jammu airport and sent by road to the neighbouring state of Punjab.Along with some 500 party workers, they attempted to re-enter Indian-administered Kashmir again on Tuesday when they were arrested after crossing the state border.They were kept overnight in the town of Kathua and were to appear in court on Wednesday.The BJP’s Mr Jaitley said party workers were determined to go ahead and raise the flag.”It was a panic reaction by the government… It was a psychological surrender before separatists,” he told reporters.Ms Swaraj said the party leaders were only arrested to “please the separatists”.”What is our crime? Why are we being arrested? We have been marching peacefully,”On Sunday night, a train carrying 2,000 BJP workers on their way to Kashmir for the flag-raising ceremony was turned around midway.Overnight, railway staff at a station in Maharashtra state attached the engine to the rear of another train and sent it back to Karnataka – BBC