Farmer unions grouping Samyukta Kisan Morcha, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh and activists from across the country on Sunday criticised the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi in connection with the probe into the ‘toolkit’, a document, related to the ongoing farmers protest against the three farm laws that seek to deregulate the agricultural trade.
Delhi Police’s cyber crime unit arrested 22-year-old Ravi on Saturday night from her house in North Bengaluru. She has been booked for sedition, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy, among other offences. A Delhi court on Sunday sent her to five days in police custody.
“Samyukt Kisan Morcha condemns the arrest of young climate change activist Disha Ravi, who stood in support of the farmers. We also demand her immediate unconditional release,” said farmer leader Darshan Pal in a statement on Sunday.
A statement, signed by at least 78 activists, academics and individuals from across the country, said, “Young environmental activists, that the country should be proud of, are the latest victims of the Centre’s continuing efforts to delegitimize the ongoing farmers’ protest and the nationwide solidarity it has generated. Disha has reportedly been picked up for sharing an advocacy toolkit inviting solidarity with the farmers’ protests outside Delhi, which was shared by noted teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg.”
“Delhi Police’s actions are all the more sinister because the 21-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,” read the statement signed by Ashish Kothari, Kalpavrish, Pune; Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA; Amit Kumar, Delhi Solidarity Group, New Delhi and Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre, New Delhi among others.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh also criticised action against Ravi. “Completely atrocious! This is unwarranted harassment and intimidation. I express my full solidarity with Disha Ravi,” he tweeted.
Ravi, a graduate from Mount Carmel college, is part of a climate activist organisation, Fridays For Future, started by Thunberg, a few years ago, to promote action against climate change across the world in 2018.
She started FFF in India in 2019 and heads the organization in India. She also coordinated various campaigns across India on climate change. She also organised a protests in Bengaluru on climate issues and wrote in different media across the world on adverse impacts of climate change.
“She was very vocal about her views on climate change and the issues she felt about strongly,” said a friend of Ravi, who was not willing to be named.
In an interview to Auto Report Africa in 2020, Ravi claimed that her motivation to become a climate activist stemmed from watching her grandparents, who are farmers, struggle with the effects of climate change.
The arrest of Ravi comes in the backdrop of a crackdown on those associated with violence during a tractor rally taken out farmers in Delhi on Republic Day. The rally, which was supposed to travel through pre-approved routes, descended into chaos after farmers on tractors broke police barricades and entered central Delhi, where they clashed with police and damaged public property.
Some groups also reached Red Fort where they clashed with security personnel, damaged property and unfurled flags at the ramparts of the fort.
At least 394 police personnel and 10 farmers sustained injuries during the clashes. One farmer died in the protests after his tractor overturned after ramming into a police barricade at ITO.
The Delhi police on February 4 registered an FIR for sedition, promoting hatred among groups and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) after the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted the ‘toolkit’ while expressing her support to the farmers protest in India.
Meanwhile, students in Bengaluru held a symbolic protest in support of Ravi on Sunday.
In a video circulated on social media on Sunday, a protester was seen handing over saplings to a police officer and asked how she was allowed to arrest by Delhi police without informing the local police.