Taking a tough stand against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Ekta Yatra, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday night “forcibly” sent BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar to Punjab. Earlier, they were stopped from entering into Jammu after they landed at the airport.

Top official sources told The Hindu that the decision to send the leaders to Punjab was taken by the government in consultation with the Centre. They were taken out of the airport late in the evening under a thick security cover and swiftly moved towards Lakhanpur, for onward journey to Madhopur in Punjab. Authorities in Punjab were informed. The development came after hectic negotiations between the BJP leaders and top civil and police officials.

“The officials delivered a terse message that they would not be allowed to hold a rally in Jammu tomorrow [on Tuesday],” informed sources said, adding they were given the option of going to Punjab, where a similar rally as part of the Ekta Yatra was planned to be held at Madhopur at 11 a.m. — and was scheduled to cross into Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier, the high drama unfolded at the Jammu airport where Ms. Swaraj, Mr. Jaitley, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Jaitley's son were stopped from coming out of their chartered plan, which landed at 3.50 p.m. However, later they entered the terminal as top civil and police officers reached the airport to convince them to return. All the three leaders were scheduled to take command of the Ekta Yatra in Jammu.

Dharna at tarmac

Though the police did not allow them to deplane, the leaders managed to come out and they staged a dharna at the tarmac for about two hours. Later, a police official served them an order of “deportation,” saying Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code was imposed in Jammu and they could not be allowed to enter the city.