Climate activist Disha Ravi arrested over Greta ‘toolkit’ on farmer protest

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Disha Ravi – Photo via Voices Of Youth
By Asia Samachar Team | INDIA |

A climate activist is the latest to be arrested by the Indian authorities in what may be a dragnet to those who want to express support to farmers protesting against new agricultural laws.

Disha Ravi, a 22-year old student and one of the founders of the Indian branch of the Fridays for Future climate strike, was picked up by Delhi police for questioning yesterday (Feb 13).

She is accused of sedition and criminal conspiracy. The document she shared – a “toolkit” which suggests ways of helping the farmers – was first posted by the prominent campaigner Greta Thunberg, according to media reports.

Police said the toolkit suggested a conspiracy in the run up to a huge #tractorparade rally on 26 January.

In an immediate response, Karuna Nundy, an Indian supreme court lawyer, tweeted: “Disha’s the daughter of a single mother. Allegations of criminality are ludicrous, to arrest in such a case more so.”

She also told the Financial Times: “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. This comes at a time when those who disagree with government policy are being systematically targeted for saying so.

“Going after perhaps the youngest and most vulnerable of the activists sends out a chilling message.”

The Indian farmers, who have camped out at a number of Delhi border points in chilling winter since Nov 26, received a huge boost to their campaign when pop star Rihanna and Thunberg tweeted their plight last week.

On Feb 2, Rihanna tweeted the following terse message to her more than 100 million followers: “Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest.” It was linked to a news story about the internet blockade at the protest sites.

The next day, environmental activist Thunberg weighed in on the issue when she shared the same report picked up by Rihanna, with a terse statement “We stand in solidarity with farmers protests in India.”

This was then followed by a surprise response from India’s external affairs ministry. Hitting out at the pop star and the Swedish activist, it said: “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”

 

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  1. FINANCIAL TIMES,

    Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg had posted a tweet showing her support for protesting Indian farmers © AP

    Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

    A 21-year-old environmentalist has been arrested in India after allegedly using social media to mobilise support for protesting farmers by sharing a campaign “toolkit” promoted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

    Disha Ravi, a leader of the Indian arm of Thunberg’s Friday for Future campaign movement, was taken from her home in Bangalore on Saturday and reportedly flown to New Delhi for interrogation by police.

    Civil rights activists and human rights lawyers say this reflects New Delhi’s increasingly tough approach to dissent and criticism.

    Ravi’s detention comes as authorities investigate what they say is an international conspiracy against the Indian government, after Thunberg posted a tweet showing her support for the protesting farmers and providing a link to the toolkit.

    India’s foreign ministry hit out at “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” by celebrities following the Swedish activist’s posts and sharply criticised pop singer Rihanna after she wrote a tweet about the protests.

    Police have accused Ravi of playing a significant role in developing and disseminating the guide, which offers advice on how to participate in and support the protests.

    New Delhi is also engaged in a tense stand-off with Twitter over demands that the social media site block hundreds of accounts the government alleges have sought to instigate unrest, including journalists, news publications, activists and opposition politicians.

    Ravi’s detention has prompted alarm among activists and lawyers.

    “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,” said Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court lawyer. “This comes at a time when those who disagree with government policy are being systematically targeted for saying so.”

    “Going after perhaps the youngest and most vulnerable of the activists sends out a chilling message,” she added.

    Farmers have been protesting for months against three new laws that are intended to deregulate India’s tightly controlled agricultural markets. Thousands have set up camp on the outskirts of New Delhi, representing the biggest political challenge to Narendra Modi since he became prime minister in 2014.

    Farmers fear that the new rules — which will allow companies to buy directly from farmers — are a step towards ending government procurement of crops at fixed prices, leaving them vulnerable to corporate exploitation.

    New Delhi, however, alleges the protests are being fomented by overseas Sikh separatists, who want to create an independent homeland called Khalistan in Punjab state.

    The Sikh separatist movement wracked India in the 1980s and caused many deaths, including the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, but the campaign largely petered out decades ago.

    Analysts say that linking the protests to a separatist movement has allowed authorities to use tougher tactics, including a British colonial-era sedition law under which those convicted can face life in prison.

    https://www.ft.com/content/2096fb08-171e-4aa9-9391-1870effa247b

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