New Delhi: The arrest of young climate activist Disha Ravi by the Delhi Police on Sunday has triggered widespread outrage. While the police have claimed that she was part of a ‘conspiracy’, all she had done was edit the protest ‘toolkit’ on the farmers’ agitation that was shared online by several people including teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Several Congress leaders condemned the arrest on Twitter, calling it “atrocious” and a form of “harassment”.
Completely atrocious! This is unwarranted harassment and intimidation. I express my full solidarity with Disha Ravi. https://t.co/bRJOeC9MnK
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) February 14, 2021
I strongly condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi and urge all students and youth to raise their voices to protest against the authoritarian regime#ReleaseDishaRavi
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) February 14, 2021
Police should recognise her right to liberty and courts must respect the Supreme Court Judgement which says bail is the rule & Jail an exception.
— Anand Sharma (@AnandSharmaINC) February 14, 2021
DishaRavi’s arrest is the latest escalation in India’s crackdown on free expression&political dissent as it seeks2stifle the farmers’ mass protests, says the @dailytelegraph UK. Doesn’t GoI care about the damage it’s doing to its own global image? https://t.co/TILH9XKYkg
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 14, 2021
Leaders from other opposition parties, including CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, too voiced their support for Ravi and demanded her release.
Modi regime thinks by arresting a grand daughter of farmers, under Sedition, it can weaken the farmers’ struggles.
In fact, it will awaken the youth of the country and strengthen the struggles for democracy. #DishaRavihttps://t.co/xRIK1BrU9s
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) February 14, 2021
“The question is when will those people be arrested who continue to issue a literal ‘toolkit’ to break the national and social unity of India morning and evening, giving rise to hatred and division among the masses,” Akhilesh tweeted in Hindi.
Arrest of 21 yr old Disha Ravi is an unprecedented attack on Democracy. Supporting our farmers is not a crime.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 15, 2021
Ravi was produced before a magistrate in Delhi on Sunday, who remanded her to five days police custody. Till late Sunday night, neither the remand application nor order was made available to the media. Unusually, the FIR in the case has also still not been uploaded by the police though more than a week has passed since it was filed.
Several lawyers questioned the procedure of arrest as well. The court proceedings, for instance, allegedly took place place without Ravi’s lawyer present.
Advocate Karuna Nundy too criticised the arrest and said the law was being misused. “To accuse a young climate activist of sedition — even if it’s true that she had some part in a social media ‘toolkit’ — is deeply egregious,” she told the Financial Times. “This comes at a time when those who disagree with government policy are being systematically targeted for saying so.”
Internationally too, several rights activists, politicians, authors and others spoke up in solidarity with Ravi, saying that supporting farmers’ protests was no reason to arrest anyone.
Indian officials have arrested another young female activist, 21 yo Disha Ravi, because she posted a social media toolkit on how to support the farmers’ protest. Read this thread about the sequence of events and ask why activists are being targeted and silenced by the government. https://t.co/ycUgDEqwdF
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) February 14, 2021
Disha Ravi is 21 yrs
A climate activist from India she campaigns for clean air, clean water and a liveable planet
She is now facing state sanctioned violence for peacefully supporting farmers
Silence is not an option we must all condemn this act of suppression#FarmersProtest
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) February 14, 2021
Delhi police arrest young climate activist @Disha__Ravi on ridiculous charges. “Only a government that puts profit over people would consider asking for clean air, clean water and a livable planet, an act of terrorism.” https://t.co/fguS3SQ0L3
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) February 14, 2021
When produced before the court on Sunday, Ravi said she had edited two lines on the protest toolkit aimed at organising peaceful protests in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement in India. The police had filed an FIR against unnamed persons involved in creating and sharing this toolkit – but have not explained why this was a legal breach. Toolkits are used across the world to spread messages relating to peaceful protests.
In a tweet, Delhi Police claimed Ravi was a “key conspirator” in the “formulation and dissemination” of the ‘Toolkit’ and had started a WhatsApp group for that purpose. This “toolkit” – which the police claims is part of a seditious conspiracy – was in fact a collection of articles, social media handles and information on the farmers’ protest, for anyone wanting to learn about the issue and spread the message.
Ravi has been involved in a number of climate-related movements in the past, including Fridays for Future, conservation of the Aarey forest and more.