On Sunday, the Delhi police arrested Disha Ravi, 21, for “sharing and editing” a toolkit put out by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to mobilise support for the ongoing farmer protests in India. On Monday, they issued non-bailable warrants for lawyer-activist Nikita Jacob and a climate activist named Shantanu on similar charges.
The police the toolkit was created by Nikita and her “associates”, Disha and Shantanu, 31. All three of them were linked to the Poetic Justice Foundation, a “pro-Khalistan group” based in Canada, the police alleged, without publicly offering any evidence.
Prem Nath, a joint commissioner of the Delhi police, alleged that Shantanu was the owner of the toolkit, Disha and Nikita its editors. A woman named Puneet, based out of Canada, had connected them to the Poetic Justice Foundation, and through them created the toolkit titled Global Farmers Strike and Global Day of Action, 26 January, the police claimed.
Nath further alleged that Nikita and Shantanu had attended a Zoom meeting organised by the foundation with 60-70 people on January 11 where the modalities of the “global day of action” were worked out.
Disha, a founder of Fridays For Future India, the country chapter of the international climate movement led by Thunberg, was arrested in Bengaluru and brought to Delhi where she was produced in court. The activist told the court she had done no wrong. “I was just supporting farmers,” , adding that she didn't create the toolkit and only made a couple of edits to it.
The Delhi police had filed an FIR on February 4 alleging that the toolkit tweeted by Thunberg – which helped draw global attention to the farmer protests just as the Indian state and much of the legacy media were trying to delegitimise it in the wake of the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally – indicated a conspiracy behind the protests against the Narendra Modi government’s new farm laws.
The police slapped the charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “promoting hatred” on the creators of the toolkit, a Google document detailing what the movement is all about, suggesting hashtags for the public to mobilise on social media and giving pointers on how to make their voices heard.
In a statement, the police had alleged that as an editor of the toolkit Disha was a key "conspirator" in formulating and disseminating it. “She asked Greta to remove the main doc after its incriminating details accidentally got into the public domain,” they alleged. “This is many times more than the 2 lines editing that she claims.”
Disha's Fridays for Future Indian was one of three environmental advocacy groups that were censored last year for raising concerns about the draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020. The group’s website was blocked and, disturbingly, it even faced action under the anti-terrorism law UAPA.
Responding to the allegation that the Delhi police arrested Disha in violation of legal procedures, Nath claimed she was detained in the presence of her mother and the SHO of the area, and that "due process" was followed .
A social worker based out of Hyderabad has alleged that Disha was taken from her residence without the police even showing her an arrest warrant. “No due diligence was followed," the activist told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity. "They didn’t inform her if there was an arrest warrant or whether they were just detaining her."
She also claimed that neither Disha nor her lawyer were informed before she was produced in a Delhi court on Sunday.
Newslaundry contacted Disha's lawyer, Abhinav Sekhri, for comment, but he said he wasn't speaking to the media for the moment.