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Rights

Couldn't Attend COP26 Because Passport Was 'Deliberately' Not Processed: Activist Disha Ravi

The climate activist, who was earlier charged with sedition, was granted bail earlier this year. She was to leave for Glasgow summit and had applied for a passport nearly three months ago, but it isn't processed yet.

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New Delhi: Bangalore-based climate activist Disha Ravi has accused the Union government of deliberately not processing her passport and thus denying her an opportunity to attend the COP26 summit in Glasgow. She said she had applied for the passport 88 days back and yet she hadn’t received any response.

Ravi was earlier charged with sedition and “promoting enmity among groups” by the Delhi police in connection with the January 26 violence during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi, but was later granted bail after a court held that “there is no direct evidence establishing the link between the applicant/accused and the violence”.

Writing about the denial of opportunity to attend the climate summit, Ravi, whose Twitter handle describes her as someone “passionate about working with people to ensure that there are trees in the forests, water in the rivers and coal in the ground”, she said despite applying for her passport nearly three months ago, it was denied.

“I was supposed to be at COP26 [because] I was supposed to report for @grist [because] I deserved to be there, but I was denied my passport, despite following due process. 88 days since I applied for a passport & I still don’t have it so I wrote about it,” she tweeted.

Also read: What Exactly is the Crime Disha Ravi is Accused Of?

In an opinion piece, which appeared in the UK-based newspaper Independent, Ravi said that India’s justice system had denied her civil liberties and stated that while she followed the rules, she was subjected to unnecessary court proceedings, and criticised and unfairly compared to liquor barons by the police.

Incidentally, while granting her bail in March this year, additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana had stated in his order: “Any person with dubious credentials may interact with a number of persons during the course of his social intercourse. As long as the engagement/interaction remains within the four corners of law, people interacting with such persons, ignorantly, innocently or for that matter even fully conscious of their dubious credentials, cannot be painted with the same hue.”

But the 22-year-old activist insisted in the article that, “to be at COP26, I would have to pass through two hurdles — one was to get a passport and the other was to file for an exception with the court that was in charge of my case. My leaving the court would be at the discretion of the court. But I never even got to stage two, because I am still stuck in stage one”.

Questioning “why is our idea of freedom limited to not being encased in the physical wall of prison?”, she further said, “I never dreamed of leaving India, let alone fleeing the country. This was simply because the zeros at the end of the price of the plane ticket were more zeros than my family made in six months. Even if money wasn’t an issue, I wanted to stay in my country”.

Disha, who was supposed to leave for Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit and was scheduled to report for a non-profit news organisation Grist, added that she never expected that the sedition and criminal cases filed against her would continue to pose a roadblock despite her having secured bail in the matter.

“Following my arrest and bail in February 2021, my bail conditions read that I am not allowed to leave the country for the duration of my proceedings. Being on bail in India means that you are only partly free. Your case is a scarlet letter that no one can miss the First Information Report (FIR) number walks with you in all aspects of your life and it prevented me from going to COP26 in Glasgow,” she wrote.

However, she added that “bail is granted to a person on the presumption of innocence. The court prescribes the country to operate on this assumption, but this order of presumption of innocence doesn’t leave the pages they are written on. Applying for a passport was asking for too much. I was expected to be grateful for my ‘freedom’, for being allowed to exist in my house and in my state”.

And then she added, “And this is the general expectation from those incarcerated – ‘be grateful for your early bail’, ‘be grateful that you are not locked up for your thought crimes’. But why should we be grateful?”