As the ruling BJP confronts a massive protest by farmers who have threatened to block Delhi and sit in on the highway in their agitation against new farm bills, a "Khalistan and Maoist" link has been alleged by the party's social media chief.
Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP's IT cell, accused the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi of first notifying the central farm laws and then seizing the opportunity to "burn down Delhi" as "Khalistanis and Maoists" had stepped in to oppose them. Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hit back, saying the BJP was "hopelessly trying to divert the attention" of people as it was clueless about handling the protests.
"Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi government has already notified the new Farm Laws on 23 November 2020 and had started implementing them. But now that the Khalistanis and Maoists have stepped in to oppose, he sees an opportunity to burn down Delhi. It was never about farmers. Just politics...," tweeted Mr Malviya, who was recently also made in-charge of the BJP in Bengal.
Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi government has already notified the new Farm Laws on 23Nov20 and had started implementing them.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 30, 2020
But now that the Khalistanis and Maoists have stepped in to oppose, he sees an opportunity to burn down Delhi.
It was never about farmers. Just politics... pic.twitter.com/s5gMq9z8oW
In response, AAP said in a statement: "The notification by the Delhi government allows farmers to sell their crop anywhere, including outside the Mandi. Selling of fruits and vegetables was already de-regulated in Delhi many years back. Now this holds for grains too. We have not dismantled mandis and they are continuing. Farmers are not against that. Farmers' demand is that they should get MSP (Minimum Support Price) whether inside or outside the Mandi. We support that demand."
AAP leader Raghav Chaddha said: "If standing by the farmers in this time is politics, we are guilty of doing it. This matter can be solved in one minute by the centre."
Several BJP leaders, including Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar, have talked about a Khalistan link to the five-day farmer protests over new laws that the centre says will bring reforms to the agriculture sector and improve farmers' earnings by allowing them to sell anywhere in the country. Thousands of farmers say they will not budge from highways near Delhi unless the centre cancels the laws, which they say deprives them of guaranteed minimum prices for their produce.
"We have inputs of some such unwanted elements in the crowds. We have reports, will disclose once it's concrete. They raised such slogans. In videos they said 'jab Indira Gandhi ko ye kar sakte hain, toh Modi ko kyu nahi kar sakte (If we can do this to Indira Gandhi, why not (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi)," Mr Khattar told reporters, referring to unverified videos in circulation.
The Khalistan movement by Sikh separatists saw Punjab in the grip of insurgency in the 1980s. In 1984, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards months after the army stormed the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine, to flush out armed separatists.
BJP leaders say "pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan" slogans are being shouted by the protesters and the agitation "seems to have been hijacked".
"Farmers have nothing to do with it. It has been hijacked by terrorists and anti-national forces. People coming in swanky cars and in bright clothes cannot be farmers," said a BJP Uttarakhand leader, Dushyant Kumar Gautam.