While it’s in the fitness of things to expect the judicial system to speak up to protect a citizen against the State’s over-reach and high-handedness, it is no surprise that civil society across the country should be furious over the arrest of the 21-year-old Bengaluru climate activist Disha Ravi by the Delhi police over the weekend.
In a Kafkaesque act, a Delhi police team swooped on Ms Ravi at her home in the southern metropolis, whisked her to Delhi without even informing her parents, and produced her before a magistrate without the benefit of counsel, a legal requirement. The activist was charged with being part of a conspiracy with “Khalistan” proponents and is being held for sedition and causing disaffection against the State.
Ms Ravi appears to be a supporter of the ongoing farmers’ agitation in the country. In support of this and to oppose the high-handed police action over it, global celebrities, including teenaged Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg, sent out tweets, unleashing a ferocious campaign, much to the discomfort of the government. FIRs were filed against Ms Thumberg and others for sedition. In the government’s eyes, she is guilty of spreading the idea of a “toolkit” to back the farmers’ agitation.
In order to understand the maliciousness, indeed the enormity, of what the Indian State has done by arresting Ms Ravi (and two others), making itself a laughingstock among democracies, it is important to be aware that this so-called “toolkit” is not a handbook of terrorism.
In fact it’s no more than guidelines on ways to propagate the farmers’ cause through the social media, and is a common expression among activists of all kinds. Indeed, it’s no more than what the Hindutva brigade, including the ruling party, have been doing. The difference is that the causes of the climate activists and the Hindutva group are vastly different, with the latter identifying with vile ones like the so-called “love jihad”, false propaganda of cow killing against Muslims and dalits, spreading fabrications against their political opponents, and disseminating hate against all voices that call for social harmony and sanity.
Ms Ravi’s “crime” is that she edited two lines of Ms Thunberg’s “toolkit”. It is for this that the Delhi police is calling her an “editor” of the “toolkit”. Since an outfit called the Poetic Justice Foundation, which apparently supports the idea of “Khalistan”, a woolly-headed thought in the minds of some persons of Indian origin in the West, also backs the farmers’ cause, all supporters of Indian farmers are being mischievously sought to be equated with “Khalistan” supporters. The practice of such sleight-of-hand by the government is clearly meant to discredit the farmers’ agitation. This is a sign of the government running out of ideas about how to contain it. It is not inconceivable that the ground is also being prepared to play the State violence card against the farmers and their leaders, and Ms Thunberg or Ms Ravi, and others like them, are just collateral damage.
But taking unlawful actions against a young woman barely out of her teens can backfire. To many ordinary people, it seems that the Delhi police, which directly operates under the Union home ministry, is degenerating into becoming the praetorian guard of the government in power....