The arrest of five activists across India over alleged links with Maoists has put Congress president Rahul Gandhi in direct confrontation with the centre after he alleged the government is allowing only "one NGO" to work freely in the country.
Union minister Kiren Rijiju returned fire this morning, using the Congress president's own tweet as the ammo, to drive his point about keeping national security above politics.
After the Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of several activists with alleged links to Maoists in several states and arrested five of them, Mr Gandhi joined others in condemning the crackdown.
"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," Rahul Gandhi tweeted, using the hashtag "Bhima Koregaon". The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP.
The raids and arrests were in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas. 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.
Mr Rijiju rose to deflect the Congress president's broadside by reminding him what his own party's veteran leader and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had said back when the UPA was in power.
"As Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had declared that Maoists are No.1 threat to India's internal security. Now the Congress president openly supports the front organisations & sympathisers of the Maoists. Keep national security above politics," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju tweeted this morning.
The arrests have drawn sharp criticism from activists who alleged the government is not allowing people whose views are different from the centre to work freely.
Author-activist Arundhati Roy, who has covered the Maoist conflict in her books, has condemned the raids on the "homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals". "They should raid those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight. It tells us very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous," Ms Roy said.