Updated: February 16, 2021 8:11:28 am
A DAY after announcing the arrest of 22-year-old activist Disha Ravi over a toolkit tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the farmers’ protest, the Delhi Police Monday issued non-bailable warrants against Mumbai-based advocate Nikita Jacob and her associate Shantanu, saying that they were allegedly responsible for creating the Google document.
Police said that Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, an engineer, were not found at their residence in Mumbai and Beed, respectively. Both work for a UK-based NGO called Extinction Rebellion (XR), they said. Sources said two more people are learnt to be on the police radar in connection with the toolkit.
Sources in the Special Cell, meanwhile, said that they have accessed purported chats between Disha and Greta, which allegedly indicate that after Thunberg tweeted the first toolkit on February 3, Disha sent her messages and requested her to delete it.
According to the sources, a purported message read: “Okay can you not tweet the toolkit at all. Can you just not say anything at all for a while. I am gonna talk to lawyers. I am sorry but our names are on it and we can literally get UAPA against us.”
Citing prima facie investigation, a senior police officer said: “We believe Nikita and Shantanu asked Disha to join because she has contact with Greta. Their aim was to highlight the issue globally. The toolkit was supposed to be private but Greta posted it on Twitter. They later asked her to delete it, which she did. Disha then edited the document and it was uploaded again.”
Police also said they are looking into the alleged role of US rights activist Pieter Friedrich in connection with the case. Manishi Chandra, DCP (Special Cell), said: “In the toolkit, there’s a section of ‘who is to be followed’. There are names of established media houses, reputed fact checkers, some NGOs and among those we found an incongruous name. That is Pieter Friedrich.”
According to Chandra, Friedrich has been “on the radar of security establishments since 2006”. Chandra said the activist was allegedly “noticed in the company of Bhajan Singh Bhinder alias Iqbal Chaudhary”, who is “a leading proponent of the K2 (Kashmir and Khalistan) desk” of Pakistan’s ISI.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Friedrich said: “It’s laughable that the entire world today — from a white Christian writer like me, a Black Barbadian singer like Rihanna — are labelled as supporters of a mythical Sikh separatist state. I have co-authored two books with Bhajan Singh, including one on how the origins of Sikhism are entwined with the anti-caste struggle. He is one of many South Asian-origin friends who include Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, and people from all backgrounds. Our friendship centres on a mutual passion for working for equality and liberty for all of humanity. Had I ever seen Bhajan even hint at support for Khalistan, I would have run the other way — but he didn’t…”
Earelier, addressing a press conference in Delhi, Prem Nath, Joint CP (Cyber Cell), said that the aim of creators of the toolkit was to allegedly tarnish India’s image.
“The email account created by Shantanu is the admin account or owner of the Google document. Nikita and Disha are the editors of the toolkit. Disha further shared the document with Greta on Telegram. She also created a WhatsApp group to collaborate with other editors, which she later deleted,” he said. Disha had denied these charges in court.
Police also said that Jacob and Shantanu allegedly attended a Zoom meeting on January 11 with “pro-Khalistani group” Poetic Justice Foundation and one of its founders Mo Dhaliwal.
According to an officer, “There were around 60-70 people in this meeting. We have come to know that a Canada-based woman, Puneet, connected the activists to Dhaliwal. In this meeting, they discussed the modalities of Republic Day preparations. Following this meeting, a toolkit was made.”
Jacob and Shantanu have moved a plea in court seeking anticipatory bail. “The Cyber Crime Cell had written to Google asking for details of creators of the toolkit. After receiving details from Google, police issued a non-bailable warrant against Nikita Jacob and a raid was conducted at her home in Mumbai. A team of technical experts accompanied police officers and, after scanning her laptop and phone, they found that there were five editors of the document. These include Nikita, her associate Shantanu, Disha Ravi and two others, including a person from Hyderabad,” said sources.
During the hearing at Patiala House Court Sunday, Disha had broken down and told the court that she was not part of any conspiracy or group. “I was just supporting farmers…because they are our future…they are the ones who are providing us with our food and we all need to eat,” she had said, adding that she did not create the toolkit and only made two edits to the document.
Police said the sequence of events in the farmers’ protests, including the violent incidents at Red Fort on Republic Day, was a “copycat” of the alleged action plan in the toolkit.
On February 4, police registered an FIR under sections of sedition, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy against the creators of the toolkit. On February 11, Delhi Police conducted a search at Jacob’s house.
“We intimated the Mumbai police and recovered two laptops and an iPhone from her place… Our team left in the evening and requested Jacob to make herself available for next search… When the investigating team reached her house the next day, she had absconded and has still not joined the investigation,” said Joint CP (Cyber Unit) Prem Nath.
Police also said the toolkit contains a hyperlink that leads to a website with “pro-Khalistan” content.
According to Anyesh Roy, DCP (Special Cell), “The toolkit is a dynamic document with a large number of hyperlinks. One of the important websites present there is askindiawhy.com. This website has a lot of pro-Khalistan content. The document has action plans for the farmers’ protest. We found that this was a private document which was meant to be shared with a limited number of people. These people were then meant to influence public opinion. Having global icons to follow this, the toolkit was made to propagate Khalistan propaganda.”
Meanwhile, responding to sharp criticism from Opposition parties over Disha’s arrest, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that Delhi Police has “exposed the nefarious conspiracies of the break India forces to demean the integrity of India”.
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