Amidst the strengthening of the farmers’ protests in the country, Disha Ravi, a 21 years old activist has been arrested. Some serious charges including that of sedition have been slapped against her.
There has been a tool kit that is in circulation. This much-discussed tool kit consists of information regarding the ways in which the central government has been trying its best to dismantle the ongoing farmers’ protest in the country. Just like any such tool kit, this is being used to educate people across the world about ongoing farmers’ protest. Disha Ravi is one of the authors of this tool kit which is available in the public domain. Claiming that this tool kit is an international conspiracy against India, Ms Ravi has been arrested.
Several legal experts in the country have come out against the illegality of this arrest. Ms Ravi, who is a resident of Bangalore was arrested by the Delhi police from Bangalore in the night without following any due procedure. To begin with, Bangalore police was not informed about the arrest; Delhi Police did not acquire the required permission from the District Magistrate and the accused was presented in front of the Court with no legal representation.
While students, farmers’ organisations, opposition parties and civil society are protesting against this illegal arrest of Ms Ravi the organisations with the support of the ruling government are involved in the character assassination of the arrested activist. PC Mohan, a Member of Parliament from Bangalore along with the others have compared Disha Ravi to the late terrorists like Ajmal Kasab. Comparing an accused in the sub judice case to the cases wherein the crime of the accused were proven, one must note, is an organised conspiracy of the ruling party.
There are three important reasons behind this character assassination of Disha Ravi. First, to suppress the national environmental movement; second, to portray farmers’ movement as an anti-national conspiracy thus snatching away the people’s support for the movement and third, to silence the youth and to instill fear about criticizing the central government.
To suppress the national environmental movement
Disha is an environmental activist. She is one of the co-founders of the Indian chapter of an international coalition called Fridays for Future which comprises young environmental activists like Greta Thunberg. This coalition holds powerful countries and organisations accountable for climate change; as a movement, it acts as a pressure group. This is not the first time that it has come under the scrutiny of the central government. The current government brought amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment Process last year. Fridays for Future had heavily come down upon these amendments which had irked the central minister Prakash Javdekar who had ordered to file a case against the coalition under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The central government is witch-hunting activists who have been criticising it not only on national platforms but also on international platforms.
To portray farmers’ movement as an anti-national conspiracy thus snatching away the people’s support for the movement
The current ruling government at the centre of the country has been colouring every social movement that critiques its policies as an anti-national conspiracy. This is done as soon as these movements start garnering public support. The intention behind doing this is to create a parallel narrative that would discredit all the dissenting voices and turning public opinion against such voices.
The protest by the farmers in the harsh winters did not capture the attention of the government. However, the plan was to use the odd few violent incidents that happened on the republic day to defame the entire movement. This plan wasn’t as successful as the spirits of the farmers’ movement remained untouched. Quite the opposite was seen happening, with ever-larger numbers of farmers thronging to Delhi borders to become part of the movement. The movement got stronger and was discussed internationally when global celebrities like Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Haris spoke in support of the farmers’ protest. This was seen as an embarrassment by the government.
The only way available for the government to defame the farmers’ movement is by portraying it as an international conspiracy against India. Some of the cricket and Bollywood celebrities who have been puppets in the hands of the central government were also made to say that the farmers’ movement is an international conspiracy. Now a tool kit, which is very common to all the movements has been turned into a seditious object and the contributors for this tool kit are being persecuted.
To silence the youth and to instil fear about criticizing the central government.
Disha is not the first one to be charged with sedition. Activists taking part in Bhima Koregaon protests against Citizenship Amendment Act protests against Hathras rape and the farmers’ protests have been arrested with sedition charges. Youth activists,senior activists with serious health conditions, women activists who are pregnant, oppressed, minorities, no one has been spared. All of them are put behind the bars. Disha’s arrest, however, has generated fear amongst those who do not agree with this government.
Disha is not an activist with the support of thousands of protestors, she was not one of the activists who aggressively took to the streets. She is an activist in her own capacity, with a genuine concern regarding the environment and peacefully protested for her causes. Disha was arrested just for contributing to a tool kit that was circulated. The fact that someone like Disha could be arrested under the charges of sedition is fearsome. This arrest shows anyone can be arrested under any pretence and of course has instilled fear amongst people.
This would force people to think twice before criticising the government. Disha’s arrest and the following character assassination would push parents to surveil their children’s political participation. Parents would attempt to silence the dissenting voices of their children. Youth, who are the future of this country, would get trapped in a tug of war between the government and parents; this could hamper the independent thinking capacities of the youth. Such a docile society is the prerequisite for the implementation of authoritarian policies.
Citizens of this country feeling unsafe to criticise the central government and equating criticism of the government to sedation are dangerous developments. Every democratic country in the world would believe in peaceful protests against the government’s policies. When Indians doing just this are being imprisoned, there may arrive a time where democracy in India would be reduced to a joke in the world.
( This article was first published in Nyayapatha and translated by Yogesh. S)