Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the journalists and ordinary people in the country are "scared of speaking out" these days. Mr Gandhi was addressing a press conference in Delhi where he yet again attacked the Narendra Modi government on Rafale deal and demonetization.
Amid allegations from the opposition that the ruling government is trying to scuttle the freedom of expression, Mr Gandhi asked the journalists with a smile: "How is the mood in the nation? Are you writing freely these days or is there some pressure...a little."
He then answered his own question saying: "The general mood in the nation these days is such that people are a little scared of speaking out. Mediapersons too do their job a bit reluctantly." However, in an apparent reassurance, he said the journalists had the support of Congress.
Mr Gandhi's remarks at the press conference came two days after five activists were arrested in multi-city raids triggering sharp reactions from opposition leaders and activists.
Five activists - Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira - were arrested in the raids for allegedly triggering violence at the Bhima Koregaon protests on January 1.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Wednesday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly "leading the country towards Emergency". The CPM also accused the centre of "attacking the democratic rights of people".
Mr Gandhi also reacted to the arrests in a tweet on Tuesday and alleged the government is allowing only "one NGO" to work freely in the country. "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. Welcome to the new India," Mr Gandhi tweeted, using the hashtag "Bhima Koregaon". The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP.
At the press conference on Thursday, Mr Gandhi attacked the government on Rafale deal and demonetisation and said: "PM Modi took your money and put it in the pockets of biggest crony capitalists."
The Congress chief had suggested earlier that the media was under pressure while covering his allegations on the Rafale deal; the Congress chief has accused the government of finalising the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets with the French government at a higher price, at a loss to the taxman, to favour Anil Ambani.
Last month, Mr Gandhi had commented that PM Modi's "minions" were pressuring journalists. "Supreme leader's minions are now sending threatening messages to journalists reporting on the Rafale Scam asking them to 'back off or else...' I'm really proud of the few brave press people who still have the guts to defend the truth and stand up to Mr 56," he said in a tweet.
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