NEW DELHI—While the arrest of 22-year-old environment activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru invited strong condemnation from social and political activists in connection with preparing a digital campaign ‘toolkit’ in support of the ongoing protests by farmers against the three controversial farm laws, the Delhi police on Monday claimed that the ‘toolkit’ was involved with two others-Nikita Jacob and Shantanu in the case. Disha has been booked for sedition.
And this ‘toolkit’ was shared by environmental activist Greta Thunberg in support of the protest by Indian farmers. The police have got non-bailable arrest warrants issued against the two and were looking for them.
Meanwhile, Nikita Jacob is reported to have approached the Bombay High Court, seeking protection from arrest for four weeks. Disha is currently in police remand for five days.
In a tweet on Monday, Delhi police claimed that Disha Ravi is an editor of the “toolkit Google document” and a “key conspirator” in documents formulation and dissemination”.
“She started a whatsapp group and collaborated to make the ‘toolkit’ doc. She worked closely with them to draft the doc”, the Delhi police tweeted.
“In this process, they all collaborated with pro-Khalistani ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’ to spread disaffection against the Indian State. She was the one who shared the Toolkit Doc with Greta Thunberg”, the Delhi police said in another tweet.
According to Delhi police tweet, Disha, later on, asked Greta to remove the main document after its incriminating details accidentally got into public domain.
Police have claimed that the ‘toolkit’ was used to give a call to “wage economic, social, cultural and regional war against India”.
However, the Delhi police action against Disha and other activists have attracted criticism from social, political and legal activists.
Demanding that ‘toolkit’ case be dropped immediately as it was based on “flimsy, ridiculous and evil pretext”, All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan said that “a toolkit is not sedition, it is not conspiracy, toolkit is for protest”.
Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD questioned the basis of Disha Ravi’s arrest, saying that everyone doing a campaign prepared a toolkit. “We Questioning the basis of Disha’s arrest, Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD said, “We are crossing the limits of absurdity. We will become laughing stock internationally”. She said that anybody doing a local campaign prepared a toolkit.
Criticising the five-day remand of Disha, advocate Rebecca Mammen John said, “Deeply disappointed by the conduct of Duty Magistrate, Patiala House Court, who remanded a young woman to five days police custody, without first ensuring that she was being represented by counsel. Magistrates must take their duties of remand seriously ensure that mandate of Article 22 of the Constitution is strictly followed. If the accused was not being represented at the time of hearing, the magistrate should have waited till her counsel arrived or in the alternate, provided her with legal aid. Were the case diaries and arrest memos examined? Did the magistrate ask the Special Cell why she was being produced directly from Bangalore without a transit remand from Bangalore courts. All in all, shocking abdication of judicial duties”.
Calling arrest of Disha Ravi as “illegal”, Delhi-based NGO, Campaign for Judicial Reforms and Accountability, demanded immediate release of the young activist. “The allegations against her are an attempt to criminalise dissent and protest”, the NGO said in a statement.
Commenting on Disha Ravi’s arrest, leading advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “When one sees how young, selfless public spirited activists like #DishaRavi & #NodeepKaur are being arrested in India today, I am reminded of the story of Sophie Scholl who was beheaded by guillotine in Nazi Germany for resisting the Nazis”.
Coalition for Environmental Justice in India on Monday issued a statement signed by more than 50 activists demanding immediate release of Disha Ravi.
They described her arrest as “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police and “highly disturbing” because even Disha’s parents were not told where was she being taken after being “picked up”.
The activists termed it as “over reaction of the State”.
“The Delhi Police’s actions are all the more sinister because the 22-year- old was taken to Delhi from Bengaluru with no disclosure about her whereabouts, not even to her parents, an action that can be termed extra-judicial abduction”, the statement said.
The activists said that current actions of the government amount to “diversionary tactics to divert people from real issues like the ever-rising cost of fuel and essential items, the widespread unemployment and distress caused due to the lockdown without a plan, and the alarming state of the environment”.
“The Government’s heavy-handedness is clearly focused on terrorising and traumatising these brave young people for speaking truth to power, and amounts to teaching them a lesson”, the activists said in the statement.