Indian police arrest activist linked to Greta Thunberg's movement

Delhi Police Arrests Climate Activist Disha Ravi 21 for Editing Toolkit for Peaceful Protest

Disha Ravi

The farmer protests have been mainly peaceful.

"No one really knew Disha except our small circle in Bangalore... until Saturday", said a friend.

The young activist was picked up from her house for questioning and later arrested, on February 13, 2021.

The protests against farm reforms have drawn global support with pop star Rihanna and Meena Harris, a niece of US Vice-President Kamala Harris and activist, drawing attention to the months-long campaign.

Earlier, the Delhi Police had asked Google and some social media giants to provide information about email IDs, URLs and certain social media accounts related to the creators of the "toolkit" shared by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and others on Twitter in connection with the farmers' protest.

Bhavreen Kandhari, a member of Thunberg's movement in India, said the organization was awaiting clarity from the police before making any statement.

Ravi was arrested by the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police and sent to five-day judicial remand.

"I did not make the Toolkit". Ravi also maintained that she hadn't authored the toolkit, but simply made two edits to it.

"The act of criminalising young people for extending solidarity to a struggle that resonates with their own aspirations for a healthy and secure future, strikes as a new low", read a statement signed by India's most prominent environmentalists on Feb 14.

Earlier past year, in an interview with Auto Report Africa in 2020, Ravi said, "My motivation to join climate activism came from seeing my grandparents, who are farmers, struggle with the effects of the climate crisis".

In July past year, the Delhi police had invoked a counter-terrorism law to block three websites of student climate activists after the groups campaigned against the government's attempt to dilute in forest protections during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Facebook post by lawyer Rebecca John
Facebook post by lawyer Rebecca John

This time, the climate activists are caught in the farmers' stand-off with the government.

Thousands of farmers overwhelmed police and reached the Red Fort complex in the old quarter of Delhi last month after tearing down barricades and driving tractors through roadblocks.

Environmental groups have also supported the protests.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led the opposition offensive following Ravi's arrest and said the country will not be silenced. "Supporting our farmers is not a crime", tweeted Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi.

The arrest has also triggered worldwide condemnation of the Delhi Police. Disha sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg through the Telegram app. Disha deleted a WhatsApp group which she created to spread the toolkit.

India's foreign ministry hit out this month at "sensationalist social media hashtags and comments" by celebrities following posts from Thunberg and pop singer Rihanna, who also tweeted in support of the farmer protests.

Several pro-government Twitter users found the old version suspicious.

Greta later deleted the tweet, posting an updated one. "Need to investigate the parties which are pulling the strings of this evil machinery", tweeted Mr VK Singh, India's minister of state for road transport and highways. Though the Delhi Police did not name Thunberg in the FIR, it went ahead to register the case against the authors of the toolkit.

The Delhi Police had earlier issued non-bailable warrants against Nikita Jacob and Shantanu for allegedly sharing the toolkit on social media.

A group of people gathered in Bengaluru and held placards seeking her release.

A 22-year-old woman stood next to a poster that said "Hands off our forests, Hands off our activists".

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