The Delhi Police Cyber Cell on Saturday arrested a 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru for her alleged role in editing and spreading a campaign document tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to support the farmers’ protest against Modi government’s agricultural laws. A court in the city has sent her to police custody for five days.

The police said that Ravi was the editor of the “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – and the “key conspirator” in its formulation and dissemination. “She started WhatsApp Group and collaborated to make the Toolkit doc [document],” the Delhi Police tweeted. “She worked closely with them [the creators of the toolkit] to draft the document.”

The Delhi Police alleged that Ravi and the others collaborated with a pro-Khalistan group to “spread disaffection” against the Indian government. They added that Ravi was the one who shared the toolkit with Thunberg.

“Later, she asked Greta to remove the main Doc [document] after its incriminating details accidentally got into public domain,” the police added. “This is many times more than the 2 lines editing that she claims.”

Meanwhile, Ravi broke down in court when the public prosecutor also accused her of having links to Khalistani separatists, The News Minute reported. “I was just supporting farmers,” she said. “I supported farmers because they are our future and we all need to eat.” Ravi denied creating the toolkit and said she just made two edits to the document.

Ravi is one of the founders of the “Fridays For Future” campaign – a global climate movement that was started by Thunberg in August 2018, calling on politicians to listen to scientists and take urgent action against global warming.

Earlier in the day, a lawyer, who was familiar with the developments and also did not wish to be identified, had told that Ravi was “picked up” from her house, which falls under the Soladevanahalli police station limits in the Karnataka capital, on Saturday afternoon around 3 pm.

“The family does not know whether she has been arrested in the case or has been picked up for questioning or what is the nature of the police action,” the lawyer had said. “We are hoping that she will be produced before a magistrate today.”

Ravi, who graduated from Mount Carmel college in Bengaluru, is currently working as a culinary experience manager with a company that produces plant-based food.

On February 4, Thunberg had tweeted a link to the “toolkit” expressing her support for the farmers’ protests, saying: “Here’s an updated toolkit by people on the ground in India if you want to help. (They removed their previous document as it was outdated.)”.

Following this, the Delhi Police lodged a First Information Report against its creators, after pro-government social media handles expressed outrage claiming that the “toolkit” was evidence of a global conspiracy to attack India. The FIR included sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting hatred amongst various communities on social/cultural/religious grounds) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

A toolkit, according to a social media campaigner, “is a booklet or document created to explain a cause or issue” that helps identify “approaches to address the issue from the grassroots level”.

The “toolkit” tweeted by Thunberg, explained that it was “meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis”.

Meanwhile, Youth based Environmental Collectives condemned Ravi’s arrest based on “false” and “clearly fabricated” charges. In a press release, the collective said that it was “actively supporting” the farmers’ protest as agriculture and environment are “deeply interlinked issues”. It said that “toolkits” are used by them as their members are “scattered far and wide and often work independently”.

“To imply that toolkits are some conspiracy gizmos used by foreign forces to destabilise India is as stupid as the ‘cow was abducted by aliens’ rubbish that was aired by the same mainstream media channels that are now airing this nonsense,” the release said. “This controversy is baseless and has no merit.”

Last year, Ravi had said that millions of people in India suffer due to “anti-people” laws as young people rallied worldwide to demand urgent action to halt catastrophic climate change.

She added:

“We live in a country where dissent is suppressed. We in Fridays For Future India were labelled terrorists for objecting to the draft EIA [Environment Impact Assessment] notification. Only a government that puts profit over people would consider asking for clean air, clean water and a liveable planet, an act of terrorism. We will continue this fight because stopping would mean no water to drink, no air to breathe and no land to live for the marginalised communities. The government needs to work with the people to protect the people. The time for prevention is over, we need recovery and a just transition.”

— Disha Ravi

The 2020 Environment Impact Assessment draft has been widely criticised for its problematic changes in rules. The new updates to the draft notification prescribe the procedure for industries to assess the ecological and environmental impact of their proposed activity and the mechanism, whereby these would be assessed by expert committees appointed by the environment ministry.

Agencies affiliated with the Centre had last year blocked the website of Fridays For Future India and two other environmental groups for opposing the draft EIA 2020.

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