Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for the arrest of five FTII students, saying they are not criminals who needed to be caught in a midnight crackdown.
"Protesting #FTII students arrested in #midnightcrackdown. Our students are not criminals Modiji. Silence. Suspend. Arrest: ModiMantra for AcheDin", the Congress leader said in a tweet.
Later talking to reporters in his constituency Amethi, Gandhi said the FTII controversy was because of the government's attempts to impose the "RSS model of education" across India.
The Congress leader has not missed out on any opportunity to lash out at the government since his return from a sabbatical earlier this year. Be it the issue of farmers' suicide or the Lalit Modi controversy in Parliament, Gandhi has tried to turn the tables on the BJP-led NDA.
"It's like the Vyapam model in Madhya Pradesh where the Sangh pushed their people into all educational institutions and killed creativity. Now they are trying to extend it to Rajasthan and then to the rest of India," he said.
"First they kill the creativity of the young generation. Then they loot money," Gandhi said.
Gandhi had visited the FTII in Pune in July to express solidarity with the students who are demanding the removal of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute's chairperson. He also took some of the students as a delegation to meet President Pranab Mukherjee.
In a midnight swoop, police arrested five students of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, charging them with rioting and other offences in connection with the gherao of director Prashant Pathrabe.
The students on strike for the last 69 days against appointment of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the institute chairman, had gheraoed Pathrabe on Monday evening, challenging his decision to go ahead with the assessment of the incomplete diploma film projects of the 2008 batch.
The arrested students and 10 others have been charged under various sections of IPC including 143, 147, 149, 323, 353, and 506 dealing with offences some of them non-bailable related to unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation and rioting.
Other opposition parties too slammed the midnight arrests, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal offering the students temporary space in the national capital to hold classes.
"Am shocked to hear whats going on at FTII. An internationally reputed institute being systematically destroyed by the government's wrong decisions," he said.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar denounced the arrests as "worrying signs for those who care for" democracy.
"Shows shrinking space for dissent. Shocking! Worrying signs for those who care for basic democratic rights," Kumar tweeted on the Tuesday arrests.
CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat tweeted: "Defending the indefensible by arresting students at #FTII. Jadavpur reenacted in Pune. Shame!"@narendramodi stop authoritarian action at #FTII. Release students and get cops off the campus."
(With agency inputs)