Chapter 3: Invasion of the saffron robes

More than a hundred thousand Hindutva supporters, most of them armed with machetes, sticks, and tridents descended on Jammu on April 22, 2020; two days after the UN Security Council passed the plebiscite resolution, and the same day that Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi flew to Washington for an emergency meeting with President Williams. 

Wearing saffron scarves or robes, and their foreheads smeared with red color to signify their willingness to battle anything that will attempt to stop them, this angry crowd had traveled thousands of kilometres to be here and were determined to make their way to Srinagar. Earlier in the day, in the wee hours of the morning, they had burned down the police checkpost at Lakhanpur. The Kashmir Police personnel posted there were in hospital and had barely managed to escape with their lives. 

The invaders occupied the Parade ground, the courtyards of temples, and even schools, colleges and universities. The people of Jammu largely welcomed the arrival of these rescuers, and people were seen distributing food and water among the crowds. However, the muslim residents of Jammu were very apprehensive and mostly barricaded themselves indoors. 

Most senior BJP, RSS and Shiv Sena leaders were under house arrest or already in police custody. Many of them were arrested overnight while leading cavalcades on the highway leading to Jammu. The procession, which the BJP dubbed the "pilgrimage to save our mother India", still carried on and even without any clear leadership, developed a life of its own. Some junior BJP leaders addressed the mammoth crowds at Parade Grounds, and incited the crowds to remain determined until they reached Srinagar.

The crisis could not have presented itself at a worse moment for Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Soon after Rahul Gandhi was elected Prime Minister, he had appointed Omar Abdullah as caretaker Chief Minister. Shortly after, elections were held, there was minimal turnout, and Omar Abdullah's National Conference had won enough seats to form the government on its own. Hurriyat had boycotted the elections, because their government had been dismissed by the BJP in 2016.