Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused the Narendra Modi government of belittling the struggles of ordinary Indian citizens, saying that for the Centre, “crony capitalists” were like “best friends”, while protesting farmers are “Khalistani”.

For the Modi government, dissenting students are “anti-nationals”, concerned citizens are “urban naxals,” migrant labourers are “Covid carriers”, rape victims are “nobody” and protesting farmers are “khalistani”, Gandhi wrote on Twitter. “And, crony capitalists are best friends,” he said.

Gandhi’s comments come at a time when tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the new agricultural laws at key entry points to Delhi for 20 days. The government has time and again made it clear that would not scrap the farm laws, but is willing to make amendments. But farmers remain adamant, saying they will not go back till the government abolishes the “black laws”.

While Modi and his party’s leaders have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws, some of them have called the farmers “misguided”, alleging they are being motivated by separatists and “anti-national” elements.

Earlier in the day, Union minister Nitin Gadkari hinted that the ongoing farmer agitation was being hijacked by people with different agendas. He pointed out that photographs of people who delivered “anti-national speeches”, and support the “Naxalite movement” were seen during the farmers’ protest.

Last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya had alleged that the ongoing farmers’ protests have “Khalistani and Maoist” links. Malviya was the second prominent BJP leader to suggest the involvement of Khalistani supporters in the farmers’ protest. Before him, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made similar allegations. None of them, however, provided any evidence to support their claims.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has been widely criticised for crushing dissent, targeting free speech, encouraging communal tensions and targeting minorities.

The South Asia State of Minorities Report 2020 on Monday said that India has become a “dangerous and violent space for Muslim minorities” ever since the government introduced amendments to the Citizenship Act last year. The report said that the BJP assuming power nationally in 2014 “unveiled a new and now frontal attack on religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.

The report also found that India’s civil society actors, which include human rights lawyers, activists, protestors, academics, journalists, liberal intelligentsia, have “increasingly been under attack” for speaking out against “government excesses and majoritarianism”.

Besides, human rights defenders have increasingly come under attack for “protesting discriminatory laws and practices have faced restrictions, violence, criminal defamation, detention and harassment”, the report said.