After PM Modi complained in Parliament of a “new entity seen during protests” – andolan jeevi – who he said could be spotted “wherever there is protest” and that there was a need to “identify such people” and protect “the nation” from such “parasites”, a climate change activist of the likes of Greta Thunberg was identified in Bengaluru and arrested by the very heedful Delhi Police.
Disha Ravi has been charged with sedition – the most common offence invoked by government these days against dissenters and protesters, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity against groups. The arrest follows Delhi Police’s search for “key conspirators” behind Republic Day’s violence and their quest for those who helped international celebrities like Greta Thunberg post a “toolkit” and speak in support of Indian farmers and spread “propaganda” against India, or rather against the ruling government.
The “toolkit” that was posted by Greta Thunberg on social media apparently had basic information on farmers’ protests as well as information on how to join the rallies and support the movement online. Delhi police allege Ravi is a “key conspirator” in the “formulation [and] dissemination” of the “toolkit” document containing methods for supporting the farmers’ protest.
Police allege she also started a WhatsApp group and collaborated to make the document. “She was the one who shared the [document] with Greta Thunberg,” they said. Police say the document has been created by a pro-khalistan organisation and that the sharing of the document on social media indicated that there was a “conspiracy” behind violence on Jan. 26.
“The main aim of the toolkit was to create misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully enacted government,” Delhi police official Prem Nath said at a Monday press briefing. Ravi reportedly told a Delhi court that she did not make the document, but she edited two lines of it.
Opposition leaders, rights activists and a slew of Indian celebrities have condemned the arrest as “an unprecedented attack on democracy”. They say Ravi’s arrest is part of a larger crackdown on all forms of dissent in the country.
Legal rights activists have lambasted the Delhi Police for not following procedures established by law in Ravi’s arrest. Ravi was brought directly from Bengaluru without a transit remand from the Courts there and produced in a Delhi Court. Legal experts have also expressed shock over the “mechanical” attitude of Delhi magistrate in sending Ravi to custody while failing to uphold established laws and procedures. In the absence of her counsel Disha Ravi reportedly broke down in the court denying being part of any conspiracy and said “I was just supporting farmers.”
Farmers’ protests have continued despite crackdown by the police following Republic Day’s violence and despite government creating red herrings of its own to crack down against “propaganda” and “andolan jeevis”.
Protests continue to spread – this time over demands for release of the Bengaluru activist. It may perhaps be difficult for the Modi government to separate the “andolan kari” from the “andolan jeevi”. Protesters seem to be joining “wherever there is a protest” or at least the Modi government may want to think so. One cannot point a finger at the faultless working of the ruling government – people are only being “misled by opposition” as the government continues to profess.
But supporting another group’s protest may be treated as sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between groups. Many a student or activist is already serving prison for trying to “create misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully enacted government”.