February 15, 2021 1:36:36 am
THE DELHI Police’s first arrest in the case of sedition and criminal conspiracy registered last week on a toolkit tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the farmers’ protest is a 22-year-old woman from Bengaluru.
Police said that they took Disha Ravi, who is also a climate activist, into custody in Bengaluru Saturday afternoon and “formally arrested” her in Delhi Sunday. They produced her in a Delhi court, which remanded her in police custody for five days — two less than what the prosecution had wanted.
During the hearing at the Patiala House Court before Metropolitan Magistrate Dev Saroha, Ravi broke down and told the court that she was not part of any conspiracy or group and was just supporting the farmers.
“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,” Ravi said. She also told the court that she did not create the toolkit, and just made two edits to the document.
The toolkit was posted by Thunberg — she pulled down the initial version and posted another — even as a series of celebrities, including pop star Rihanna, had tweeted in support of the farm protests.
While those tweets drew a sharp response from the Ministry of External Affairs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed during a visit to Assam that a global “conspiracy”’ was afoot to defame the country’s tea industry and none behind it will be spared. It was seen as a veiled reference to the toolkit wherein it was said that India’s “yoga and chai” image should be disrupted as part of the pushback against the Centre’s farm laws.
According to police, the sequence of events in the farmers’ protests, including the January 26 violence during the tractor rally, was a “copycat” of the alleged action plan shared in the toolkit.
On Sunday afternoon, police alleged that Ravi “was the one who shared the toolkit document” with Thunberg. “Later, she asked Greta to remove the main document after its incriminating details accidentally got into the public domain. This is many times more than the 2-line editing that she claims,” the police tweeted from its official handle.
The public prosecutor told the court that it was part of a “larger conspiracy” with links to Khalistani separatists.
The police also said in their tweets that Ravi allegedly started a Whatsapp group and worked closely to draft the toolkit. She also allegedly collaborated with “pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation” to spread disaffection against the Indian state, it said.
According to police, Ravi is one of the founders of Fridays For Future India. Fridays for Future is an international movement of school students who skip classes on Fridays to join demonstrations demanding politicians to act against climate change. It gained widespread popularity after Thunberg protested outside the Swedish parliament in 2018.
Anil Mittal, Additional PRO, Delhi Police said: “The Cyber Unit of Special Cell is investigating the conspiracy behind the Google document — Toolkit. They found that Ravi was one of the editors of the toolkit and also a key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination.”
On February 3, Thunberg shared one version of the toolkit on Twitter on the anti-farm laws protests in India. She later deleted the tweet saying the toolkit was being “updated by people on the ground in India” and uploaded another toolkit the next day.
The one that was deleted had sections that asked those interested to start a ‘Twitter storm’ on February 4 and 5; share a solidarity photo/ video message by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; call/ email government representatives and ask them to take acton; divest from “monopolists and oligopolists like Adani-Ambani”, and organise protests “on-ground” “near the closest Indian Embassy, media houses and local government offices on February 13 and 14.
The shorter, updated toolkit said it was a “document meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis.”
It also asked those interested to tweet their support to farmers to use the hashtags #FarmersProtest and #StandWithFarmers. It does not mention Adani or Ambani but asks people to divest from fossil fuel industries.
On February 4, Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell registered a case against the creators of the toolkit on charges of sections of sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting hatred.
Special CP (Crime Branch) Praveer Ranjan had said a preliminary enquiry indicated that the toolkit in the question was created by “pro-Khalistani organisation” Poetic Justice Foundation.
The police, meanwhile, told the court that Ravi’s custody was required to trace two more persons who they intend to arrest in the case. It was also submitted that her custody was required to ascertain her alleged “links with Khalistani networks”.
The police said that the content that she edited was missing from her phone and that the data has to be recovered.
Incidentally, in July last year, the Cyber Unit had sent a notice to an internet service provider to block Friday For Future’s website under section 18 of UAPA (punishment for conspiracy).
The notice was sent on the complaint of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar regarding an incident of “multiple emails with the subject name EIA 2020”. The notice read: “The above website depicts objectionable contents and unlawful activities or terrorist act, which are dangerous for the peace, tranquillity and sovereignty of the India”.
However, the police later said they withdrew the notice and dropped UAPA charges. FFF, along with two other NGOs mentioned in the notice, had been pushing for the withdrawal of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 draft.