Team ulaunch presents the brief on the arrest of the climate activist Disha Ravi and the Toolkit.

Q. What has happened?

On Saturday, 13th February 2021, Disha Ravi was arrested from her home in Bangalore, flown to Delhi, placed in police custody without access to a lawyer and has been charged with sedition and criminal conspiracy. The case has been lodged under IPC sections 124(a) (Sedition), 153 (a) (Promoting enmity among different groups) and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy). This is in connection with her alleged role in editing a digital toolkit that supported the farmers’ protest and had instructions for people to create a social media upheaval for the same. 

Q. Who is Disha Ravi?

Disha Ravi is a 22-year-old environmental activist based in Bangalore. She is the co-founder of the Indian branch of Fridays for Future network, a protest movement inspired by the 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. The Fridays for Future movement involves school students striking and protesting against the failure to tackle global warming. Disha states that her motivation to join climate activism came from her grandparents, who are farmers and have struggled with drought, crop failure, and flooding as a consequence of global warming. 

Q. What is the Toolkit and why is it controversial?

According to the police, the toolkit is linked to an international conspiracy against India. They have also accused Disha Ravi and two others of conspiring with terrorist organizations. Delhi police have filed an FIR against the creators of the toolkit. “Preliminary enquiry has revealed that the toolkit in question appears to have been created by a pro-Khalistani Organisation ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’,” said Special Commissioner of Police (CP), Praveer Ranjan. Disha told the court that she only edited two lines of the document and had no seditious intent. “I was just supporting the farmers. I supported the farmers because they are our future and we all need to eat,” she said before she was sent to custody for five days.

This toolkit document was tweeted by Greta Thunberg, a significant international figure, stating her support for the farmers. This document had supported a non-violent tractor rally on January 26 and had details of upcoming online and street protests. However, the Republic Day tractor rally had descended into violence and chaos. 

She later removed the tweet and tweeted an edited version of the toolkit. Thunberg’s tweet enraged many Indians who perceived this to be an international conspiracy against India. Posters of Greta Thunberg’s face were burned in protest against sharing the document. 

Q. What is the relation of the toolkit to the farmer’s protest?

The farmer’s protests have been going on since November, where a large number of farmers have camped outside Delhi, in protest of the new controversial farm laws. The document is a compilation of information, hashtags, suggested actions, ideas and contacts for those who want to help support the farmers. This sort of toolkit is a common tool of organized protest movements.

Disha has been an ardent supporter of the farmer’s protests. Upon investigation, Disha was identified as the editor of the ‘Toolkit Google Document’ and is accused of preparing and sharing the document with Thunberg.

Q. What is sedition?

Sedition falls under section 124(a) of the Indian Penal Code and is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt against the Government of India. One prominent example of a case of sedition is the Aseem Trivedi vs The State of Maharashtra case, where Trivedi, an anti-corruption cartoonist was charged with sedition when while supporting the Anna Hazare protests against corruption, portrayed the national emblem in a negative light- depicting the lions as jackals. This case is of importance as it raises questions about the extent right of freedom and speech, at the same time raising questions about whether a cartoon should lead to life imprisonment.

Read our article about the Tandav controversy and Freedom of Expression.

Currently, the High Court has asked Delhi Police to maintain that no private chats be leaked and the media to ensure information is not disseminated in a ‘sensationalised manner’.

Researched and Written by Vihita Nevatia & Subhav Duggal, team ulaunch.

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