Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi has tried to dispel claims he is ineffectual or entitled. Photo: AFP

Police arrested five outspoken lawyers and left-wing activists in raids across India Tuesday, attracting condemnation from opposition parties and rights groups who described it as a crackdown on government critics.

Police claimed the five had links to Maoist militants, but Rahul Gandhi, head of the main opposition Congress party, insisted that the government simply wanted to “jail all activists.”

Rights groups and media outlets named the five as communist poet Varavara Rao, human rights lawyer Vernon Gonsalves, writer and lawyer Arun Ferreira, journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, and trades unionist Sudha Bharadwaj.

Police did not name the five but Shivaji Bodakhe, the joint commissioner of police in Pune, told AFP: “These persons have been arrested for their Maoist links.”