Bangalore, Saturday 13th February. The police invade the home of Disha Ravi – 22 years old, co-founder of the local chapter of the Fridays for Future environmental movement and employed at a vegan restaurant – and arrest her. The charge? Having collaborated in the drafting of an information kit on Indian farmers’ protests.
Barred from supporting Indian farmers
For months, thousands of Indian farmers have camped on the highway leading to the capital New Delhi. Numerous and violent clashes with the police, with a toll that has already exceeded 140 deaths, have taken place. At the root of the protests are three new liberalising agrarian laws passed by the government of Narendra Modi without consulting farmers first, even though they produce most of the food consumed by the Indian population. Specifically, the abolition of pre-established prices makes them even more vulnerable, including exposing them to the excessive power of multinational corporations.
While the Indian authorities repeatedly blocked the internet to make communication between protesters more difficult, a document began circulating on social media. A simple text that explains the reasons behind the protest in a few lines and invites readers to show their solidarity by using the hashtags #StandWithFarmers and #FarmersProtest when addressing political representatives, signing petitions and organising digital and in person strikes. The text was also retweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, thus reaching her 4.9 million followers.
Disha Ravi created a dedicated WhatsApp group, wrote the document to “spread disaffection against the Indian State” and shared it with Greta Thunberg. These were her crimes according to a tweet posted by the Delhi police that explains her arrest based on charges of of sedition.
The young woman, as the Guardian writes, was taken to Delhi and placed in pre-trial detention. In court she tried to defend herself by saying that she had only reviewed a few lines of the document, but the police assert that her contribution was more substantial.
Disha Ravi, arrested by CyPAD Delhi Police, is an Editor of the Toolkit Google Doc & key conspirator in document's formulation & dissemination. She started WhatsApp Group & collaborated to make the Toolkit doc. She worked closely with them to draft the Doc. @PMOIndia@HMOIndiahttps://t.co/e8QGkyDIVv
The methods adopted by the police have sparked a wave of indignation internationally. The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India highlighted how Ravi was transported thousands of kilometres away without her parents even being informed of her arrest.
Arrest of 21 yr old Disha Ravi is an unprecedented attack on Democracy. Supporting our farmers is not a crime.
The words of the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal – who has already expressed solidarity with the protesting farmers – were very harsh. The arrest of the young woman are “an unprecedented attack on democracy,” he tweeted.