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Demand For Democracy: Internet Speaks Up Against Disha Ravi’s Arrest

. 5 min read . Written by Sanjana Bhagwat
Demand For Democracy: Internet Speaks Up Against Disha Ravi’s Arrest

Every day during the ongoing farmers’ protest seems to bring with it new challenges, and new reasons for outrage. The latest outrage is over the arrest of a 22-year-old Indian climate activist, Disha Ravi.

The Delhi Police’s cybercrime cell arrested Disha Ravi from her home in Bangalore on Saturday, 13th February. She was arrested for allegedly editing and circulating an online “toolkit”, that has been tweeted by Greta Thunberg. The “toolkit” in question had information on the farmers’ protests, and suggestions on how to support the farmers.

An FIR was filed against the creators of the “toolkit” on 4th February by the Delhi Police cybercrime cell. Ravi’s arrest is based on this FIR.

The Delhi Police have accused Ravi of being “a key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination.” She is accused of having collaborated with “pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against the Indian state” in the process.

Ravi broke down when she was presented before a Delhi court on Sunday. She denied being a part of any conspiracy. She asserted that she hadn’t created the “toolkit” but only made two edits to it.

“I was just supporting farmers,” Ravi said before the court.

She was sent to five-day police custody on Sunday, 14th February.

Disha Ravi’s Arrest Has Sparked Widespread Outrage

On the one hand, a select few, like Haryana minister Anil Vij and three-time BJP MP, P.C. Mohan, have tweeted in favour of Ravi’s arrest. Vij tweeted that anyone who has “anti-national thoughts in their mind must be completely eradicated. Be it Disha Ravi or anyone else.” P.C. Mohan attempted to draw parallels between the young climate activist and terrorists like Ajmal Kasab and Burhan Wani. “Age is just a number,” he stated.

But a large number of people, from politicians, activists, lawyers, and celebrities, to the general public, have voiced their outrage over the blatant attack on democracy and free speech that Disha Ravi’s arrest is.

Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal emphasises that “supporting our farmers is not a crime”, calling Ravi’s arrest an “unprecedented attack on democracy”.

Congress leaders like Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh, Surpriya Shrinate, and Kapil Sibal, spoke out against Ravi’s arrest on Twitter, and asked for her release.

The arrest, like most other recent occurrences during the farmers’ protest, has caught the eye of international audiences as well. Adam Roberts, a correspondent of The Economist tweeted how arresting an activist over a “toolkit” makes India look “so weak”.

Rupi Kaur joined the likes of Rihanna and Jameela Jamil, directing a global audience’s attention to what is happening in India. “Disha’s arrest is alarming and the world needs to pay attention,” her tweet reads.

Meena Harris, niece of Kamala Harris, who has been receiving widespread trolling for speaking out in support of the farmers, much like all the other public figures doing so, has spoken out against Disha’s arrest as well.

Rachita Taneja, creator of web comics Sanitary Panels, who has been charged for contempt based on her comics before, didn’t let this stop her from speaking out.

“Dear Indian media, repeat after me – 1. Social media share kits are very common amongst brands, activists, and political parties, 2. Disha did not do anything illegal when she edited a document, 3. The document itself is not illegal,” she further tweeted.

Advocate Rebecca John posted online that the arrest of Disha Ravi was a “shocking abdication of judicial duties”. Disha being remanded to five days police custody without first ensuring that she was represented by counsel was a violation of Article 22 of the Constitution, she said. Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nandy has also voiced her condemnation of the arrest.

Environmental Collectives Have Issued Statements Demanding The Release Of Disha Ravi

A group of youth-based environmental collectives have issued a statement protesting Disha Ravi’s arrest.

“It is our firm opinion that the government needs to stop viewing everyone who disagrees with its policies as enemies and rather learn to work with the people who have elected them to power. Using words and phrases like ‘international conspiracy’, ‘defame the country’, ‘waging social, cultural, and economic war against India’ to describe young environmental groups is highly unbecoming of people sitting in the highest corridors of power,” the statement read.

The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India and other civil society groups have also issued a statement demanding Ravi’s release.

“We call on the Indian Government to take India’s youth into confidence, understand their concerns about their future, and work with them to safeguard our environment and strengthen institutions of democratic decision making. We demand that Disha Ravi be immediately released and assisted to get back home to resume her life,” they’ve said.

Ravi’s Arrest Is Bound to Instil A Fear Of Speaking Up In The Future – Refuse To Be Coaxed Into Silence

The void of Indian celebrities – those who also have the largest number of followers – speaking about the issue is apparent and disappointing.

Even with the large number of individuals who are raising their voice against Ravi’s arrest, the arrest is bound to do exactly what it intended to. That is, make people think twice about speaking their minds or speaking out against those in power, in the future. It instils a fear of raising their voices among the youth, and encourages silence from everyone.

Now, then, is the most crucial time to fight against these attempts. Participate in the discourse. Be a part of the narrative in the small way we all can – by refusing to be silent and speaking up. 

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