NAGPUR: Senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram, who held home as well as finance portfolios in the Manmohan Singh government, says there no such thing as ‘urban Naxalism’.

Condemning the recent arrests of five people for involvement in January’s Koregaon Bhima-related violence near Pune, Chidambaram said the five were civil rights activists and their arrest was a ploy to divert attention from pressing issues before the Narendra Modi government.

The Congress leader was here on a short visit just to address the media on the Rafale deal and demonetisation fiasco. Towards the end of the press conference when asked his reaction on the arrests of five ‘urban Naxalites’, Chidambaram chided the reporter for using the term and said it was a media-creation.

“The five arrested were social activists and intellectuals. The arrests were made also to instil fear in those speaking against the BJP government,” he added.

When pointed out that among the five, at least three had faced similar action during UPA regime and that ‘urban Naxalite’ term came into circulation that time, Chidambaram said the action taken that time was by the state government. “I am not defending that action and the arrest now, two wrongs can not make a right,” he stressed while hailing the Supreme Court order that said civil rights activism was a “safety valve of democracy”.

On Rafale deal, Chidambaram reiterated allegations that the Modi government was hiding the truth and refusing to disclose vital details that people are eager to know. “The whole deal struck unilaterally by Modi smacks of grave suspicions as the price of each fighter plane to be bought from French company Dassault is not being revealed. The BJP government has to explain why state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was excluded from the offset clause and instead a private company was pushed for the deal with Dassault,” he said.

According to Chidambaram, Modi had announced on April 10, 2015 that as an emergency 36 Rafale fighters are being ordered off-the -shelf. “However, till date not a single plane has arrived leaving everyone wondering what was the emergency when delivery takes so much time,” he added.

In a new turn, Chidambaram termed the demonetisation as an “official money-laundering exercise designed and executed by the government to convert all the black-money into white”.

“Of the Rs 15.42 lakh crores of demonetised notes in circulation, Rs 15.35 have returned to RBI. Hardly Rs 10,000 cr is out which could be cash left with individuals across Nepal, Bhutan or NRIs across the globe. So what happened to Rs 3 to 4 lakh crore of black-money that the government was aiming to check,” asked the Congress leader.

“If Modi government fails to come clean on Rafale deal and demonetisation, the doubts in the minds of peoples would be proven and then the two controversies could be termed as big scams. The Congress would then make them the election issues,” he said.

Chidambaram also defended Rahul Gandhi’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe in the Rafale deal. He, however, said if the Congress came to power it would not scrap the Rafale deal but try to to get those fighter planes at reasonable rates as “our defence forces need them badly”.