The arrest of the 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru has gained attention across Indian news channels and has led to outrage across the country. The case was in relation to the ‘toolkit’ shared by international climate activist Greta Thunberg, who said it could help the ongoing protest. The toolkit provided guidelines and methods in ways, people nationally and internationally can join hands to support the farmers’ movement.
Disha was arrested by the Delhi Police on Feb 13th from Bengaluru c
Besides the outrage over the allegations, there were other apprehensions addressed related to the proceedings of her arrest. Let’s find out.
Who is Disha Ravi?
Disha Ravi is an active and involved climate and environment activist, who labels herself as an ‘eco-feminist.’ Her social media account displays the support she extends to Green Peace campaigns.
In September last year, she was one among the four activists of colour interviewed by Vogue on battling environmental racism. One of her striking comments was, “People of colour are suffering from the climate crisis first-hand — a lot of people don’t give us the attention that we need. The fact that you would choose to listen to a white person on the same issue rather than a person of colour, to me, is environmental racism”
Reasons for her arrest
One of the main allegations against Disha is that she was one of the main conspirators who took part in circulating the Toolkit. She is also accused by the police to erase a WhatsApp group involving the Toolkit document. Along with Disha, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu are the two other activists are sought after by the police. They stated that these three people talked over Zoom about the propagandistic agendas that led to the Republic Day violence in the Farmers’ protests. The police remarked, "In this process, they all collaborated with pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against the Indian State.”
The Delhi Police, who claimed to have access to chats, said that Disha told Greta to "not tweet the toolkit" as their names were present on it. They further claimed that she told Greta Thunberg to "not say anything at all for a while" as the issue had started blowing up and "we" could face action under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Print reported that Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Prem Nath said “Disha Ravi, who is associated with Fridays for Future (a global climate strike movement that started in August 2018), sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg on Telegram and coaxed her to act on it. The main aim of the toolkit was to create misinformation and disaffection against the government.”
“The toolkit sought to artificially amplify fake news through various tweets they created in form of a tweet bank and also sought public to participate in the action on 26 January, which took a violent turn,” he added.
Proceedings of her arrest
The Delhi Police stated that Disha was arrested on Saturday, 13th February from Bengaluru. The arrest took place in the presence of her mother and a local police official, who also confirmed that she was also in contact with her lawyers.
However, several questions were raised on her arrest.
The 2019 order of the Delhi High Court says "Endeavor should be made to obtain transit remand after producing the arrestee before the nearest Magistrate... unless exigencies of the situation warrant otherwise." In simple words, it implies that the accused can only be moved from one place to another (in this situation from Bengaluru to Delhi) when after the approval by the local magistrate.
Thus, in the case of Disha, the legal precedent confirmed that the Delhi police did not get permission from a local court of Bengaluru.
In Delhi, she was not provided with her own lawyer and given a stand-in government lawyer when produced in court. However, Disha’s legal team claimed that she argued her own case in front of the magistrate. Finally, the judgement of the court declared five days of police custody with alleged charges of sedition and conspiracy.
In response to the allegations, Disha Ravi, on Feb 14th, told the court, “I did not make Toolkit. We wanted to support the farmers. I edited two lines on February 3."
Support pours in for Disha Ravi
NDTV article reported that Lawyer Rebecca John called this arrest a shocking “abdication of judicial duties". Rebecca also alleged that the magistrate at the Delhi court could not arrange for a rightful legal representation to argue her case. The Delhi Police, however, claim that the activist chose to fight her own case by herself.
She said, “Magistrates must take their duties of remand seriously and ensure that the mandate of Article 22 of the constitution is scrupulously followed." She added, "Where the case diaries and the arrest memo examined? Did the magistrate ask the special cell why she was being produced directly from Bangalore without a transit remand from Bangalore courts?
Several others extended their support to Disha and condemned her arrest extensively.
In fact, Disha herself tweeted on Sunday with a video titled “Is this ideology the only reason for my arrest?” This was posted before the police confiscated her phone and laptop for further investigations.