The Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for calling its yatra to unfurl the national flag at Srinagar as "promoting divisive agenda", saying it smacked of an attempt to suffocate democracy.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Anurag Thakur, who is leading the yatra to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, said in a press release in New Delhi that he regretted the prime minister's remarks and was appalled at the "ugly designs" of the Congress and the state government in scuttling his peaceful march.
"The Prime Minister's statement is a blatant disregard to the aspirations and freedom of Indian youth, as well as an attempt to suffocate democracy," said Thakur, who is on his way to Srinagar as part of the BJYM's yatra.
Manmohan Singh on Saturday appealed to the people to "refrain from promoting divisive agenda," in a direct reference to the yatra.
"I am appalled at the ugly designs of the Congress and J&K government in scuttling the peaceful march aimed at promoting national integration by thousands of nationalist youth. I also condemned the arrests of BJP leaders in J&K as it is an act of clear-cut desperation," he said.
Reiterating BJYM's resolve to go ahead with the yatra, Thakur called upon the nation's youth to rise to the occasion and reject PM's remarks, which, he said, were nothing more than an attempt to demoralize the Indian youth.
"We are leading a peaceful yatra. Across 11 states we have been received by enthusiastic people. The national flag has enthused millions of people and we youngsters are carrying forward those aspirations. I fail to comprehend how this is an attempt to score political points," said Thakur, who is an MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh.
Thakur, whose yatra passed through Hoshiarpur, Amritsar and Jalandhar in Punjab Sunday, said, "Republic Day was indeed a solemn occasion and that's the reason we have chosen this as a moment to reinforce the values of national integrity and sovereignty.
"The prime minister, instead of demoralizing the spirit of India's future, should have complimented our endeavour which has resuscitated nationalist feeling among millions of people," he said.
"This was nothing but a clear indication that the Congress continues with its ambivalence towards separatist forces in the J&K region, encouraging them to continue to challenge the spirit of India and Indianness," he added.
Condemning the state government for arresting BJP workers, he said the it was conniving with the central government, which was desperate to prevent the BJYM from unfurling the national flag in Srinagar.
"It is indeed sad. They are clearly bowing down to the designs of the separatist forces by indulging in acts like arrest of BJP workers," he said.
Thakur had begun the yatra Jan 12 from Kolkata, planning to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar Jan 26 on the occasion of Republic Day.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has announced that it would not allow the yatra to reach Srinagar, citing sensitive law and order situation there.