Disha Ravi. Photo: Twitter
New Delhi: A 21-year-old climate activist, Disha Ravi, has been arrested from Bengaluru by the Delhi Police early on Sunday morning. The police claim she was involved in sharing the “toolkit” related to the farmers’ protest on social media. Ravi graduated from the Mount Carmel college, and is one of the founders of the ‘Fridays for Future’ campaign in India.
A lawyer familiar with the developments told Scroll.in that Ravi’s family had not been given any details – not even whether she was being arrested or detained for questioning. “The family does not know whether she has been arrested in the case or has been picked up for questioning or what is the nature of the police action,” the lawyer said. “We are hoping that she will be produced before a magistrate today.”
A police officer told The Hindu that Ravi was arrested and her phone and laptop seized because she had made changes to the toolkit and shared it on social media. “We have found that she made several changes in the toolkit related to farmers protest and further spread it in certain groups on social media,” the officer said.
This “toolkit” – which the police claims is part of a 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.
Earlier, the Delhi Police had asked Google and some social media giants to provide information about email id, 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.
The Cyber Cell had lodged an FIR against unnamed “pro-Khalistan” creators of the “toolkit” for waging a “social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India”. The case was registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and various other sections of the Indian Penal Code, the police said.
Addressing a press conference earlier, a senior Delhi Police officer said initial investigation linked the document with a pro-Khalistan group named “Poetic Justice Foundation”.
According to the police, the “toolkit” has a particular section that mentions “digital strike through hashtags on or before January 26, tweet storms on January 23 onwards, physical action on January 26 and watch-out or join farmers march into Delhi and back to borders”.
As The Wire has explained in detail, a ‘toolkit’ is prepared for protests often, as it helps remote sympathisers access and participate in the movement, promoting strength in numbers. In a long-term movement, it can be assumed to be a successor of the pamphlet that delineates the ethos of the protest.
The fact that the government – including external affairs minister S. Jaishankar – is painting this toolkit as some sort of proof of conspiracy has been questioned by several experts. Retired IPS officer N.C. Asthana has written for The Wire about why the police’s claims are not made out, and its investigations into the matter do not make sense:
“Beyond the official hysteria and the media’s hype, the toolkit merely calls for mobilising opinion through social media, sharing solidarity photo/video messages, signing petitions and emails, etc. It also calls for a tweetstorm. This means a series of related tweets posted by a Twitter user in quick succession. None of these steps is an offence. Moreover, since it speaks of solidarity protests at or near Indian embassies, it suggests that the toolkit was designed primarily for foreigners or people living outside India.
As far as the January 26 farmers’ march is concerned, it calls to ‘watch out for or join it’. Given the fact that the rally was permitted by the police, there is no offence here even if the call of the toolkit’s authors were aimed at some Indian citizens.
…The toolkit, therefore on its face value, does not contain anything which could even remotely be linked to the sections used in the FIR. As far as the charge of criminal conspiracy is concerned, it must be kept in mind that expressing solidarity with something or giving advice for doing something is not synonymous with criminal conspiracy.”