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Monday, April 12, 2021

My autonomy was violated, was held guilty by TRP-seekers: Disha Ravi

“As I stood in that courtroom, desperately searching for my lawyers, I came to terms with the fact that I would have to defend myself. I had no idea whether there was legal assistance available so when the judge asked me if I have anything to say, I decided to speak my mind," Disha Ravi said.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru, New Delhi |
Updated: March 14, 2021 8:05:40 am
Disha Ravi, climate activist, sedition case, TRP scam, Delhi court, Indian express newsDisha Ravi was arrested on Feb 13.

Breaking her silence more than a fortnight after being granted bail by a Delhi court in a sedition case, climate activist Disha Ravi said Saturday that “truth, no matter how long it takes, always reveals itself”. She slammed the media trial that followed her arrest, saying “my autonomy was violated… by seekers of TRPs”.

In a four-page statement she posted on Twitter “to present a narrative that is my own”, 22-year-old Ravi, who spent 10 days in police and judicial custody after being arrested February 13 by Delhi Police in connection with a Toolkit on the farmer protests that was tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, recalled her experience at the Patiala House Courts where she was produced after being brought to Delhi from Bengaluru.

“As I stood in that courtroom, desperately searching for my lawyers, I came to terms with the fact that I would have to defend myself. I had no idea whether there was legal assistance available so when the judge asked me if I have anything to say, I decided to speak my mind. Before I knew it, I was sent to 5 days in police custody,” she said.

She began her statement saying: “All that is real feels far too unreal: Delhi’s infamous smog; the cyber police station; Deen Dayal Hospital; Patiala House Court; and Tihar Jail. In all the years that someone had asked me where I see myself in 5 years, I would have never answered ‘jail’ but here I was.”

“I kept asking myself what it felt like to be there at that particular moment in time, but I came back with no answers. I had coerced myself into believing that the only way I would be able to live through this was by tricking myself into thinking that this wasn’t happening to me — the police did not knock on my door on 13 February, 2021; they did not take my phone and laptop, and arrest me; they did not present me at Patiala House Court; the media personnel were not trying to find a place inside the room.”

She spoke of the media trial that followed her remand in police custody. “It’s no surprise that in the days that followed, my autonomy was violated; my photographs were splashed all over the news; my actions were pronounced guilty — not in the court of law, but on flat screens by seekers of TRPs. I sat there, unaware of the many abstractions made of me in order to satiate their idea of me,” she said.

Writing about her days in Tihar Jail, Ravi said: “At the end of the five days (19 February 2021), I was shifted to Judicial Custody for 3 days. In Tihar, I was aware of every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Locked in my cell, I wondered when it became a crime to think the most basic elements of sustenance on this planet were as much mine as theirs.”

Granting her bail on February 23, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana had said “citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation” and “cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies”, and that the “offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments”.

In her statement, Ravi wrote that “most people knew little or nothing about climate activism or climate justice”.

“My grandparents, who are farmers, indirectly birthed my climate activism. I had to bear witness to how the water crisis affected them, but my work was reduced to tree plantation drives and clean-ups — which are important but not the same as struggling for survival. Climate Justice is about intersectional equity. It is about being radically inclusive of all groups of people, so that everyone has access to clean air, food and water,” she said.

“As a dear friend always says, “Climate Justice isn’t just for the rich and the white.” It’s a fight alongside those who are displaced; whose rivers have been poisoned; whose lands were stolen; who watched their houses get washed away every other season; and those who fight tirelessly for what are basic human rights,” she said.

“We fight alongside those actively silenced by the masses and portrayed as ‘voiceless’, because it is easier for savarnas to call them voiceless. We take the easy way out and fund saviourism rather than amplify the voices on ground,” she said.

“The immense outpour of love from the people gave me strength. I am grateful for everyone who stood by me. The past few days have been beyond painful, yet I know that I am one of the privileged. I was lucky enough to have pro bono legal assistance but what of all those who do not? What of all those still in jail whose stories are not marketable? What of the marginalized that are not worthy of your screen time? What of those who face the world’s brazen indifference?” Ravi wrote.

“Although their physical forms are trapped behind bars because of our collective silence, their ideas continue to live on as will the united resistance of the people. Ideas do not die. And, truth, no matter how long it takes, always reveals itself,” she said, signing off with a quote she attributed to tribal rights activist Soni Sori: “We are threatened every day, our voices crushed; but we will continue to fight.”

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