Jammu: After a nearly six-hour high drama at Jammu airport, police on Monday night arrested BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar after they refused to return to Delhi and insisted on taking part in the flag-hoisting in Srinagar on Jan 26.
The state government has refused sanction for the Bharatiya Janata Party youth wing's Ekta Yatra.
The orders for their arrest were issued by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, according to sources. The BJP leaders, sources said, were being taken to Pathankot, in Punjab on the border with Jammu and Kashmir.
The chief minister took the step after union Home Minister P Chidambaram intervened and opened a way out for the state government.
"They have got our baggage. Its loaded in three cars. What next? Don't know. 'You are under arrest' they say," Sushma swaraj tweeted from the airport.
The BJP were stopped at the Jammu airport earlier in the day.
Ananth Kumar said that the Omar Abdullah government had created an Emergency-like situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
"This is almost like an Emergency situation. As soon as we landed, the district magistrate came to the aircraft and served us orders asking us to go back. I do not know what is the provocation in hoisting the national flag. It is the duty of Omar Abdullah and Union Government to protect all citizens who want to hoist national flag. We are now sitting on a dharna at the airport," said Kumar.
"The Centre fails to take action against those responsible for making seditious speeches but is quick to stop people from hoisting the Tricolour," he said.
"We wanted to hoist the national flag, we do not know our offence. Terminal gates are locked. The plane is not allowed to leave," Sushma had earlier posted on her Twitter page.
Some BJP workers who had come to greet the trio were arrested after they started to protest against their leaders' being stopped from entering Jammu.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government of bowing before the separatists.
"We never wanted confrontation with the Congress or the government in Jammu and Kashmir. Our confrontation was only with separatists. But the Government of India wants confrontation. This incident reminded us of the Emergency days," said Prasad while addressing a press conference in New Delhi.
"All three senior BJP leaders are inside the Jammu airport. This is for the first time in the history of Independent India that two leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are not allowed to enter Jammu. All this is happening on the instructions of the Government of India and the Congress party," he said.
BJP seeks President's intervention
With its senior leaders denied entry into Kashmir Valley for the flag hoisting programme in Srinagar on the Republic day, BJP has sought President Pratibha Patil's intervention in the matter.
"We have urged the President to intervene in the matter as two of our senior leaders are being stopped at Jammu," senior leader Rajnath Singh said after his phone call to the President.
"I requested her (Patil) to tell the Centre to permit the youth wing to hoist the tricolour", he added.
BJP moved the President after its senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were stopped at the Jammu airport.
They were sent by the BJP high command earlier in the day to "take command" of the BJP youth wing's flag hoisting yatra at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Chidambaram speaks to Jaitley, Omar
In an bid to defuse tension, Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after J-K authorities stopped BJP leaders at Jammu airport ahead of a planned hoisting of tricolour in Srinagar's Lal Chowk on Republic Day.
Chidambaram called up Omar and took stock of the situation arising out of the arrival of Jaitley and party colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar at the Jammu airport and the decision of local authorities not to allow them to enter the city, sources said.
The Chief Minister told the Home Minister that the two top BJP leaders would not be allowed to attend a public rally in Jammu as part of the BJP's controversial 'Ekta Yatra'.
Following Chidambaram's request, Omar agreed to send state Chief Secretary S S Kapoor and DGP Kuldip Khoda to talk to Jaitley and Swaraj and persuade them to abandon their plan.
In his conversation with Jaitley, Chidambaram requested him to respect the wishes of the Chief Minister and return to Delhi to defuse tension in the state, they said.
Advani lodges protest with PM
Unhappy over the treatment meted out to party colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley at Jammu airport, senior BJP leader L K Advani talked to PM Manmohan Singh to lodge a protest over the developments which had "never happened" earlier.
"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 said.
While expressing anguish, the Chairman of BJP Parliamentary Party told Singh that such developments had "never happened earlier".
Advani said Swaraj and Jaitley had refused to return to Delhi.
Swaraj and Jaitley, who went to Jammu this afternoon to join the party's Ekta Yatra, were prohibited from coming out of the airport, leading to a stand-off.
On being told by the authorities that prohibitory orders under Section 144 was in force, Swaraj and Jaitley asked them to arrest them rather than sending back to Delhi, Advani said.
Asked whether Singh had given any assurance to him, Advani said, "I did not call to seek any assurance but just to register my protest at the treatment meted out to our two senior leaders."
(With inputs from agencies)