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‘Martyr’ Uma marches to jail

Hubli (Karnataka), Aug. 25: Ready to be “crucified” for the honour of the national Tricolour, Uma Bharti today went to jail after a dramatic surrender in a local court where she stuck to her stand of not pleading for bail.

As the court sent the BJP leader to a fortnight’s judicial remand for inciting riots 10 years ago, her party called a bandh in Madhya Pradesh and Congress-ruled Karnataka tomorrow. “We will continue our strike as long as the government does not withdraw the cases against our leader,” Karnataka BJP leader Ananth Kumar said.

Uma, charged with inciting violence after a 1994 flag-hoisting ceremony on a banned site left several people dead, arrived here this morning to cheers of hundreds of party workers.

The fiery sanyasin, who travelled 32 hours by train from Madhya Pradesh, reached the court of first class judicial magistrate Mohammed Ismail a few minutes before noon.

“I am ready to be crucified for the honour of the national flag. I am going to launch the Tiranga yatra as soon as I come out of prison. I will not move for bail during my trial,” the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said after the judge pronounced the order in a packed courtroom, a stone’s throw from the controversial Idgah Maidan, the site of the flag-raising programme 10 years ago.

The court granted the request of Uma’s counsel to let her private secretary Siddharth Singh and domestic aide Bhoori to attend to her in prison. The BJP leader, who enjoys Z-plus security, was later driven in a bullet-proof car to the guesthouse of the University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad, 50 km from Hubli.

Karnataka police allowed Uma to have her way from the time she entered Karnataka at Raybag on the border with Maharashtra. Though superintendent of police D. Roopa served the warrant before she reached Hubli, the top brass had made arrangements for her surrender rather than arrest. Uma drove to the Sri Krishna Math here before reaching the court. She wore on her head a string of tulsi leaves given by the math’s priest.

Hubli was turned into a virtual fortress with 4,000 police personnel keeping tight vigil. Director-general of police S.. Borkar declared the court and the idgah out of bounds and even ordered closure of schools and colleges. Even journalists had a trying time in reaching the court.

In Bangalore, chief minister Dharam Singh said he could not “understand” why the BJP was blaming the Congress chief for reopening the case after the earlier government, also of the Congress, had decided to drop the charges.

“Sonia Gandhi is the last person to intervene and I am also the last person to resort to such things,” he said.

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