The Delhi Police on Monday claimed that activists Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu attended a Zoom call with a “pro-Khalistani” organisation in Canada called the Poetic Justice Foundation, reported NDTV. The police said that modalities related to the farmers’ protests against the new agricultural laws were chalked out during that virtual meeting.
The police investigation is related to a document that the authorities claim to be anti-government. The document or “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – caught attention when it was tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in support of India’s protesting farmers on February 4.
During a press briefing on Monday, Joint Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell, Prem Nath said that the police conducted searches at Jacob’s residence on February 11. “After due intimation to the Mumbai Police, two laptops and one iPhone was found and several incriminating information was retrieved,” Nath said. “The initial examination of Nikita [Jacob] reveals that she and her associates Shantanu and Disha [Ravi] had created the ‘toolkit’ Google document.”
He said that Shantanu is the owner of the document while the others were its editors. While the police issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Jacob and Shantanu earlier in the day, climate activist Disha Ravi has been sent to police custody for five days.
Nath said that a woman named Puneet, who is in Canada, had connected Jacob and others to the Poetic Justice Foundation, reported ANI. The organisation is an advocacy group that often raises questions connected with human rights. However, the police claim it is promoting Khalistanism or Sikh separatism, a charge that the group denies.
“The main objective [of the group] is to create awareness and dialogue around human rights and social justice issues that have intersections with the South Asian diaspora,” said Mo Dhaliwal, co-founder of the outfit.
Nath said that screenshots of the “toolkit”, which were available on open source, were investigated by the police. “As soon as the investigation was able to fetch enough information, a search warrant was obtained from court on February 9, against Nikita Jacob, one of the editors of the toolkit Google Doc.”
The police commissioner said that Disha Ravi sent the “toolkit” to Thunberg via the Telegram app, reported PTI. He added that Ravi deleted a WhatsApp group she created to spread the “toolkit”.
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 police alleged that the document was aimed at waging a “social, cultural and economic war against the government of India” and at creating divisions among various groups in Indian society.
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.
Meanwhile, Nikita Jacob has moved a plea before the Bombay High Court seeking transit anticipatory bail for four weeks. She also sought interim protection from any coercive steps by the police and a copy of the FIR filed against her. Shantanu has also filed a transit anticipatory bail petition before the Aurangabad Bench of the High Court. Their pleas will be heard on Tuesday.