New Delhi: The Congress on Monday demanded that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley apologise for "insulting" the Indian academia for his remark at the London School of Economics (LSE) that "there is an alliance of subversion on Indian campuses", in reference to last week's violence at Ramjas College.
Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram too hit out at Jaitley.
"When Mr. Jaitley was president of DUSU in 1975, was he heading an 'Alliance of Subversion'?" - he asked sarcastically on Twitter.
"The Finance Minister went to London. At LSE, he said 'there is an alliance of subversion across university campuses in India'. Thus spoke the Finance Minister in the erstwhile capital of Imperial Britain," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari at a media conference here.
"He has insulted the academia of India, insulted its students, teachers and the other members of the fraternity. He (Jaitley) should apologise for the language he has used against Indian academia and that too on foreign soil," he added.
Delivering a talk at the LSE on Saturday, Jaitley had: "Violence is not the method; no group can and should use violence... there is an alliance of subversion which is taking place. The separatists and the ultra-Left are speaking the same language in certain university campuses. So, they must be willing to allow others with a different opinion to put a counter viewpoint."
Jaitley's comment comes days after violent clashes outside Delhi University's Ramjas college between activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's students wing - and the left-wing All India Students Association (AISA) on February 22.
Tewari also said Jaitley's remarks reflect the deep-seated fear in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that there is an instinctive alliance of subversion coming together.
"That instinctive alliance of subversion is predicated on undermining the fascist principle, which is intrinsic to the BJP. That is the alliance which challenges their intolerance and their right to dominate the discourse which is making the government paranoid," he said.
"The violence which took place in Ramjas College is absolutely abhorrent. What is more shocking, is the attempts made by senior members of the government to justify the violence.
"Nobody holds the brief for the Balkanistaion of India or supports those who advocate the secession of India. Right to freedom of expression includes the right to offend and those offended have recourse to the law, if the reasonable restrictions are in any manner transgressed," Tewari added.
Accusing the Modi government of joining forces with the Sangh Parivar to unleash assaults on Indian democracy, the Congress leader also said the assault on students and teachers by ABVP activists at Ramjas College was part of a concerted effort by right-wing forces.
"The incident (at Ramjas) is not isolated. Ever since this government came to power, attempts have been on to adjust the discourse 90 degrees to the right.
"There is this pattern of intimidation and violence going across the country which challenges the fundamental precept on which the Constitution of India rests, the idea on which the country has been founded.
"Therefore, time has come for all progressive, pluralistic and patriotic forces to come together and fight this relentless assault on the Indian democracy by elements of the Sangh Parivar (that) has complete and absolute backing of the government right up to the Prime Minister," said Tewari.
"This is indicative by the kind of people the Prime Minister has chosen to follow on his Twitter handle."
Earlier, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien had said that Modi was following on Twitter certain trolls who write "venomous, misogynist" stuff besides issuing "murderous threats".
The clashes at Ramjas between the two groups erupted after the ABVP forced cancellation of a seminar that was to be addressed by JNU student Umar Khalid. Khalid was jailed last year on sedition charges for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans.
The discord took a new turn after Gurmehar Kaur, a student of Lady Shri Ram College and daughter of an army officer killed in the Kargil war, launched a social media campaign against the ABVP.
Kaur posted a photo on social media, holding a placard saying: "I am a student of Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me" with the hashtag #studentsagainstabvp.