Congress leader P Chidambaram Saturday slammed the Maharashtra government over the arrest of five Left-wing activists for alleged Maoist links, saying it was an attempt to crush dissent.
Addressing a press conference in Nagpur, the former Union Home Minister said holding extreme Right or Left wing views is acceptable in a free country and the problem arises only when there is incitement to violence.
"They (those arrested) are civil rights activists, human rights activists, lawyers, writers and poets. They have extreme Left views."
"In a free country you can have extreme Left view, you can have extreme Right view...that is the essence of freedom. It is only when somebody indulges in violence or invites violence or aids or abets violence that he is committing a crime," he stated.
The Congress leader alleged the police crackdown on Left- wing activists is aimed at silencing the critics of the BJP- led government.
"We think this is the attempt to divert the attention of the people from pressing issues. This is an attempt to crush dissent and attempt to instill fear in critics of the government.
"We condemn this and we are very happy that the court has intervened and given them some degree of liberty," he said.
On August 28, the Pune police had raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested five of them - Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and Gautam Navalakha in Delhi - for their alleged links with Maoists.
The Supreme Court has ordered that the five be kept under house arrest till September 6.