On the 13th of February, in a shocking development, Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old environmental activist and recent graduate of Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru was arrested from her home by the Delhi Police and taken to Delhi without being produced in a local court or allowed to contact her legal counsel. The arrest was carried out in complete violation of procedures established both in constitutional and criminal law.
Disha’s family was kept in the dark as to her whereabouts until she was presented in a Delhi Court a day later. Her alleged crime is editing and sharing a toolkit, which provided supporters of the farmers’ protest with information and resources, on her social media account.
As prominent news portals reported – “This ‘toolkit’ – which the police claims is part of a seditious conspiracy – was in fact a collection of articles, social media handles and information on the farmers’ protest, for anyone wanting to learn about the issue and spread the message.” Lawyers and experts who have examined the toolkit have stated that it lists various means of non-violent protest, and there is nothing unlawful in it. In fact, ‘tweet storms’ are a common form of social media engagement on diverse matters. As parents of children, teenagers and young adults, we are shocked by this arrest.
The incarceration of activists across the country for expressing their views or standing up against injustice, including young women such as Amulya, Nodeep Kaur and Gulfisha, shows how this is a clear and present concern.
The arbitrariness of this case, which criminalizes an ordinary tool used both by the government and social movements, will have a chilling effect on youth and parents alike. We have striven to inculcate in our children a love for the planet and their fellow human beings. We value their concerns about the state of the world and their desire to stand up against injustice and make a difference. But the abduction of Disha by the Delhi Police tells us that no young person with a sense of curiosity and passion to change the world is safe in today’s India. The incarceration of activists across the country for expressing their views or standing up against injustice, including young women such as Amulya, Nodeep Kaur and Gulfisha, shows how this is a clear and present concern.
We are horrified that Disha was arrested, taken to a different city and held in police custody, with complete disregard for legal procedure. We are angered that her family was given no information about her arrest or any opportunity to interact with her. We are filled with a sense of disquiet and foreboding – any of our children could be taken from us in this manner. The incarceration of activists across the country for expressing their views or standing up against injustice, including young women such as Amulya, Nodeep Kaur and Gulfisha, is condemnable. It is a matter of shame that the Government of Karnataka, which has the responsibility of protecting the right to life of our people, has abdicated its responsibility.
As parents, we know that all-round development of children and youth is only possible when they are exposed to different viewpoints, when they can debate and stand for or against any position. We are shocked at the call to ‘exterminate’ Disha by an elected official and the equating of her actions to terrorism. We are dismayed at the exhortations to youth to ‘keep their heads down’ and ‘focus on their studies’. By criminalizing young people’s speech, thoughts and lawful actions, India fails its future citizens. Our government and our law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to help us with our task of protecting our children, have instead put them in mortal peril.
We demand that:
1. The Delhi Police drop this farcical investigation into the legitimate Right to Expression of young adults and immediate release Disha Ravi.
2. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Sedition Law be repealed by Parliament.
3. The Government of Karnataka investigates this matter, and ensures that the procedures established both in constitutional and criminal law are adhered to.