Let me tell you what the Delhi Police knows. And I do not mean the abstract entity called Delhi Police. I mean every single IPS officer and every constable involved in carrying out the “toolkit investigation”.

They know that 22-year-old environmental activist Disha Ravi is not the prime mover along with the relatively recently formed Canada-based Poetic Justice Foundation (set up in March, 2020) , in a plot to overthrow the Indian government. They know this because the IPS officers at least, can read English and a simple search would show them that the term “toolkit” in this context is basically used by organisers of street protests against autocracies the world over, for peacefully expressing mass dissent.

Here is one such article from 2013 called The Dissident’s Toolkit, in the context of the Arab Spring. The author Erica Chenoweth (soon to be honoured with an arrest warrant) explains:

“Research shows, in fact, that demonstrations are just one of many tools that civil resistance movements can use to effect change. Successful movements are those that use a wide array of methods to pressure their state opponents while keeping their activists safe. The demonstration tactic we’re used to seeing is just one of many hundreds of tactics available to civilians seeking change – and successful campaigns for change must use more than just a single tactic.

The Delhi Police know this just as they knew that the Bhima Koregaon accused (now in jail for about three years) were not involved in any plot to overthrow the government or to assassinate the prime minister, because police circles certainly knew that malware had to be embedded into the laptops of the accused to set up this case.

This revelation was made by Arsenal Consulting, a United States digital forensics firm, the CEO of which will soon be proved to be part of the Khalistani-Urban Maoist-Jihadi network, funded by 18-year-old Greta Thunberg. They too can expect to be honoured with an arrest warrant.

On January 1 each year, tens of thousands of people gather at the Victory Pillar in Bhima Koregaon near Pune. Photo: Vijayta Lalwani

The Delhi Police knows that the Poetic Justice Foundation has nothing to do with a pro-Khalistan agenda, and that organisations set up to overthrow states do not announce themselves on a website, just as they know the farmers protesting the farm laws – which will hand over agriculture to crony capitalists (thus compromising the environment, farmers’ livelihoods and food security for all) – are not Khalistanis either.

(However, the continued brazen injustice and state violence towards the peacefully protesting farmers is certainly proving the claim of those who say no justice is possible for the dispossessed, especially for minorities, in India.)

The Delhi Police knows that “a toolkit” in this context merely consists of information about an issue and suggestions for planned non-violent action from twitterstorms to petitions and peaceful protests at suggested sites on designated dates that have historical significance, such as January 26, for example. Just as it knew very well that Paul Brass’s academic book of 2003, widely read and taught globally in Political Science and History departments did not “radicalise” Jawaharlal Nehru University scholar Sharjeel Imam into planning an overthrow of the duly elected government.

A display of art work by children and young people in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood. Credit: Supriya Sharma

It is ironic (or enraging/tragic/words fail me) that the Indian authorities compared the farmers surrounding Lal Qila and hoisting the Sikh religious flag, the Nishan Sahib, on a random pole, to those who stormed the Capitol in the US.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that India and US are both vibrant democracies with shared values, adding that incidents of violence and vandalism at the historic Red Fort on January 26 have evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India as did the Capitol Hill incident on January 6.

The Nishan Sahab did not “supplant” the national flag as semi literate so-called news anchors claimed. It was separately raised on a different pole on the very day that the official Republic Day parade on Rajpath featured as the official tableau of Uttar Pradesh, a model of the Ram temple. This temple – let us remember and repeat this, each time we think about it or say it – the Ram temple is to come up on the very spot where the forces associated with the current government criminally demolished a mosque, the Babri Masjid.

The Supreme Court judgement termed the destruction of the mosque “an egregious violation of law”, even as it then handed over the responsibility of building a Ram temple at the site to the government of India.

The insignia of Hindu Rashtra being paraded by the state on the very day celebrating the Constitution of a still nominally democratic secular Republic – and the crime is a mass movement raising a flag sacred to one community elsewhere?

Absolutely no damage was done to the Red Fort, it was a symbolic, peaceful, temporary reclaiming of a public space. Meanwhile on the US Capitol, the invaders were violent, there was arson and rioting and four people died. And oh yes, there were Indian supporters of the current regime in India waving the Indian flag. While our nauseating media reported one of them as a Congress supporter, the enthusiastic flag waver (why didn’t he wave the US flag?) clarified:

“As far as I am concerned, when it comes to the policies of the government, I like the policies of the BJP government because they are more business-friendly. Even though I have disagreed with some of their ideals. So I am politically speaking, ideologically speaking, more connected with the BJP than the Congress.

(He is a Christian by his name, so yes, some of the policies of the BJP he would disagree with.)

The Delhi Police has accused Disha Ravi of playing a key role in editing the toolkit document and in its circulation, having been publicly a part of Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” campaign. Disha told the court that she did not make the toolkit, merely edited two lines of it. For this, the court sent her to police custody for five days. Senior lawyer Rebecca John wrote in a post:

“Deeply disappointed by the conduct of the duty magistrate…who remanded a young woman to five days in police custody, without first ensuring that she was being represented by counsel. Magistrates must take their duties of remand seriously and ensure that the mandate of Article 22 of the constitution is scrupulously followed, If the accused was not being represented by counsel at the time of the hearing, the magistrate should have waited till her counsel arrived or, in the alternate, provided her with legal aid.

Cooked-up case

Even if Disha Ravi wrote every word of the toolkit herself, the Delhi Police knows, as did the Duty Magistrate, that she has infringed no law, and that her arrest is unconstitutional, unwarranted and deeply repugnant to the very idea of a democracy.

Now warrants are out against lawyer Nikita Jacob and Shantanu and they face charges that are not bailable. Expect another wide round of arrests in the toolkit case, just as in the cooked-up Bhima Koregaon case and the equally fabricated Delhi Riots 2019 case.

And what does the Delhi Police and He to Whom They Report know every well indeed? That not one of the charges will stick, even with a pliant judiciary. But the purpose of all this is something else.

For instance, young activist Amulya Leona got default bail after 110 days in jail for trying to say that all countries are loved by their people. Her views are clear from a post in Kannada in which she said:

“Whatever country you may belong to, may your country live long. Hindustan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad, Bangladesh Zindabad, Sri Lanka Zindabad, Nepal Zindabad, Afghanistan Zindabad, China Zindabad, and Bhutan Zindabad.

She was charged with sedition, and stayed in jail for 110 days before she got default bail.

The point is that the police know, the court officials know, and the Home Minister Shah knows, that none of these charges can stick if the many steadfast lawyers in our country keep up their amazing work. But for the state, the point is not necessarily to win these cases. The point is to create an atmosphere of terror and intimidation such that a chilling effect is produced.

A clear message

Eighty-three-year-old Stan Swamy, 19-year-old Amulya Leone, stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui who may or may not have made a joke, journalist Mandeep Punia, arrested and beaten for reporting on farmers’ protests, 23-year-old Nodeep Kaur protesting the farm laws – countless, countless others since 2014, in accelerated form since the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s capture of power in 2019.

The message is clear from every institution of the state, from trolls on the internet, from violent mobs on the ground: do not dare to oppose the agenda of Hindu Rashtra or predatory capitalism. With every Amulya Leone and Disha Ravi, Hindu Rashtra hopes to shut up thousands of others.

Christophe Jaffrelot, long time scholar of Indian politics (soon to be honoured with an arrest warrant) uses the striking phrase “state vigilantism” to describe what is happening in India today:

“The BJP’s rise to power may, therefore, result, not only in a post-Mandal counter-revolution that has enabled upper-caste politics and policies to stage a comeback but also in the promotion of some upper-caste orthopraxy and ethos via state vigilantism. The new dispensation exemplifies a style of control that is as much based on political power as on the enforcement of social order, something very much in tune with the RSS’s tradition.

State vigilantism. This is the composite monster we face today.

We face it armed with the idealism and courage of our young, the steadfastness and wisdom of our old, our moral compass, our numbers, our civil disobedience, our cyber warriors, our lawyers working overtime in defence of rule of law, journalists who refuse to bow down to this brutal regime, our resolute non-violence, our capacity to love across religion and caste and gender, our compassion for our fellow beings, our internal quarrels, our arguments among ourselves – our Toolkits for Democracy.

How can we not be victorious?

Nivedita Menon is a professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

This article first appeared on Kafila.