Insisting that no one can stop citizens from peacefully hoisting the national flag anywhere in the country, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday said that opposition to its peaceful unity march to Srinagar would strengthen the separatists. “We are living in a free nation and we have the right to hoist our national flag anywhere in the country. So what is the problem in hoisting the Tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk in Kashmir Valley?” said Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha president and MP Anurag Thakur.

Mr. Thakur, who is an MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, is leading the Rashtriya Ekta Yatra (March for national unity) which started on January 12 in Kolkata. The march is to culminate on January 26 at Lal Chowk. Unfazed by repeated urgings of Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah not to come to Lal Chowk as it might trigger violence, Mr. Thakur invited Mr. Abdullah to join the march and honour the Tricolour at Lal Chowk.

“Separatists go to Delhi, make derogatory remarks about the country and claim that Kashmir is separate from India but they are not held responsible for sedition. Why is the government lending support to that agenda of anti-national forces by protecting them under the right to freedom of speech? But when we are trying to unite the county by performing a basic national duty we are neither supported nor protected!” he said.

Mr. Thakur also accused the Jammu & Kashmir government of supporting separatists in the Valley. “While the Omar Abdullah government is not doing anything about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it has adopted a very lenient attitude towards separatists and is least concerned about their own people. It has given Rs.5 lakh as compensation to each of the accused of stone-pelting who had injured over 2,500 policemen but has not done anything for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs,” he said, and added: “There is a need for Article 370 to go. Jawaharlal Nehru gave this as a temporary solution which has now become a permanent problem.”

“If the Government decides to stop our Yatra when it enters Jammu, the onus will be on it. If the Yatra is stopped, it will be a victory of the separatists and anti-nationalist forces who want to divide this country. Our basic purpose is unity and integrity of the country and to end the gap that is there between Kashmir and the country,” he added. The 15-day Yatra, which was flagged off by BJP president Nitin Gadkari from Kolkata, is expected to cover a distance of over 3,000 km and pass through 12 States.