The BJP today launched a sharp counterattack on the Congress over Tuesday's arrest of five activists on terror charges. "Naxals are Naxals when you arrest them and human rights activists when we arrest them?" demanded party spokesperson Sambit Patra a day after Rahul Gandhi's sharp attack on the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"The Congress used to be a mainstream political party. It has reduced itself to a fringe outfit today. The Congress wants to be seen as standing with 'tukde-tukde brigade' (groups that want to split India)," Mr Patra said.
The activists arrested, the BJP contended, are known for their Maoist links.
"Varavara Rao was jailed in the '80s, on charges of waging war against India. We weren't in power back then. He has been arrested other times too. In an interview, he stated that 'you can't fight without arms in your hand'. He also talked about creating guerrilla warzones," Mr Patra said.
Vernon Gonsalves, he said, was arrested for having explosives in possession. Nine detonators, Naxal literature etc were recovered for him. The Congress arrested them. He was convicted in June 2013, Mr Patra said.
"Gautam Navlakha is being protected by Rahul Gandhi. In 2011, he was sent back from Srinagar by the Congress, which was ruling Jammu and Kashmir along with National Conference...They said they won't let them enter the state," said the BJP spokesperson.
The BJP said Congress' RPN Singh had once said in parliament that Maoists kill mainstream political personalities, whenever they get a chance to do so.
"These people have discussed assassinating PM Modi, they want to stop the Modi government. This nation has lost 2 PMs. Rahul Gandhi is politicising the issue. He talks about Muslim Brotherhood and IS abroad, and safeguards Naxals after returning," he added.
On Tuesday, after the arrest of the five activists following multicity raids by the Pune police, Rahul Gandhi had tweeted:
There is only place for one NGO in India and it's called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 28, 2018
Welcome to the new India. #BhimaKoregaon
The raids and arrests were in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas in January.
Those arrested include Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. The raids were carried out in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad.
The Pune police said the activists are linked to Maoist groups and have shown "intolerance to present political system". There is "conclusive proof" that they have a nexus with other unlawful groups and deliberate involvement in larger conspiracy. The activists, the police said, were planning to recruit members from 35 colleges and launch attacks.
After hearing a petition that challenges the arrests, the Supreme Court said the activists will be under house arrest till September 6, the next date of hearing.
One of the petitioners, historian Romila Thapar, said: "Arrests should surely be of those who actually spread terror in society through assassination and lynching, and not of those who work for human rights - the rights that are essential to citizenship and democracy? Are these arrests a demonstration to show that the democratic rights of the Indian citizen have been annulled."
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