Updated: February 15, 2021 11:40:50 am
In an interview last year to US author and professor Gayle Kimball, who is compiling a book on Gen Z girl climate activists, Indian climate activist Disha A Ravi, 22, weighed in on a question on whether protests and activism is a part of Indian culture.
“In India, protests are a part of life since the Indian freedom struggle was rooted in peaceful protests. There are a lot of protests on humanitarian issues and religious issues and protests are very ingrained in Indian society. Social media has helped in recent days,” said the business administration graduate, who was arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell Saturday for links to a farmers’ protest toolkit put out by the teenage global climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Disha, who wanted to pursue a career in finance, had been vocal about environment issues long before she graduated from Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru in 2018.
Her social media profile shows she supported campaigns of Green Peace in her early college days and many of her friends are people who describe themselves as eco-feminists, campaigners against abuse of women and social activists.
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In keeping with her interest in climate change and vegan food habits, she works as a culinary experience manager with GoodMylk, a company involved with making plant-based food accessible and affordable to people.
Disha is one of the founding members of the Indian chapter of Fridays For Future, the climate campaign Thunberg launched by staging a protest at her school every Friday.
According to Disha’s own account to Kimball, the Friday For Future India campaign materialised largely after she came in contact with like two-minded women from Bengaluru who were interested in the climate change campaign on the Internet.
“All our associations were formed through the internet — Instagram and other social media. We connected through mutual friends and that is how we found each other. Most of us are women. I had not seen any of them before. Bangalore was the first but simultaneously Mumbai and Delhi started. We did not want do it in one city alone,” she said in the interview.
FFF India currently has around 150 activists with around 20-30 in Bengaluru. With its activity being largely volunteer-oriented, there are only a few activists who are part of all activities and others are volunteers who may be part of a few events.
The activities of FFF India involve researching environment issues, organising climate strikes in public spaces, online campaigns against projects considered detrimental to the environment, outreach work with local communities and schools to create awareness.
One of the tools used by FFF India to address issues which have railed the Indian government in recent times is an email campaign where mails were sent off from hundreds of accounts to oppose the draft Environment Impact Assessment 2020 plan put out by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in March 2020.
The mails sent out from hundreds of accounts to environment minister Prakash Javadekar said, “In March 2020, during the COVID pandemic and under your leadership, the MOEFCC had released the Draft EIA 2020 Notification, and I am writing to you today to unequivocally request that this draft be withdrawn on account of how destructive it can prove to be for the ecology and the people of our great nation”.
The campaign against the EIA 2020 plan led to the blocking of the website of FFF India and two other groups and the threat of a UAPA case in July 2020, which was later modified to an Information Technology Act, 2000 case and later withdrawn.
“Disha and FFF India had to face some problems with the police earlier also and they were questioned over a campaign. What they are doing is only in the interest of the environment. There is no illegal activity involved. I do not know on what basis allegations are made,” said the former Karnataka environment secretary A N Yellappa Reddy, 75, an environment activist who has been invited by Disha for FFF India programs in Bengaluru.
Current email campaigns of FFF India include a demand for “ethical implementation of the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC)”, a campaign for protection of the Mollem forest area in Goa by cancelling “clearances for projects passing through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, Goa” and to save an elephant conservation zone in Uttrakhand by cancelling the “proposal for extension of the Jolly Grant runway”.
There are also social media campaigns being run by FFF India for protection of the Aarey forest in Mumbai, the Raika forest in Jammu and the Dumna nature park in Madhya Pradesh.
The activities of FFF India are done in conjunction with FFF International and campaigns are collectively decided and voted for before implementation, say FFF India activists.
“FFF International does not have a single goal. Earlier our goal was to declare a climate emergency. The countries that declared climate emergency did not act on it and that is when we decided we wanted climate justice where the government prioritizes climate action and ecological sustainability above all else. We do not have set demands and we want to make different demands work for different countries,” Disha Ravi said last year.
“In India one of the demands is for government to acknowledge the climate crisis. Our government does not currently believe it is a serious issue or it is even an issue. It would not be a demand in Europe where the issue is recognized,” she said.
“Personally for my country I am not very optimistic. The amount of violations and environmentally destructive projects the government has promoted – especially during the lockdown there have been huge deforestation issues. It is very scary. There are no existing political parties that can lead an environment or climate change crisis,” she said.
Sources in the Bengaluru police confirmed that Disha Ravi had been picked up by the Delhi police on Saturday in connection with an FIR over the farmers protest toolkit put out by Greta Thunberg the founder of FFF International but claimed to have no details of the probe.
“What is happening is very sad and unfortunate. We are losing our freedom of expression,” said environmental activist Joseph Hoover from the United Conservation Movement about the arrest of Disha Ravi.
In her interview with the US author Gayle Kimball last year DIsha Ravi said that the Indian freedom movement is often associated with Mahatma Gandhi like the climate change movement is linked to Great Thunberg despite hundreds of others also being involved.
“It is not that Greta does not deserve the attention she gets – she definitely does but it is also important to recognize that there are many people who started this and indigenous communities in the world were probably the first,” she said.
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