Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Climate activist, ‘the face of India’s crackdown on dissent’, granted bail after arrest

Activists have called her arrest a warning to those who want to show support for anti-government protests and an 'attack on democracy'.

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An Indian court has granted bail to a 22-year-old climate activist who was arrested for sharing a document intended to help farmers protesting against new agricultural laws.

Disha Ravi has been involved in environmental circles for the past three years but over the weekend she  was arrested and became the face of the Indian government’s heavy-handed crackdown on dissent.

In a statement, police said she had “collaborated” to “spread disaffection against the Indian state”.

They said she was an editor of a “toolkit” document connected to India’s ongoing farmer protests, which she had shared with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who had tweeted it to a large audience.

Disha, one of the founders of the Indian branch of the Fridays for Future (FFF) climate strike, was arrested on Feb 13 in the southern city of Bangalore at the home she shares with her mother.

She was flown to Delhi and placed in the custody of Delhi police without a lawyer and charged with sedition and criminal conspiracy.

On Saturday, before granting her bail, a court asked the Delhi police whether it had any evidence against her or “are we required to draw inferences and conjectures”?

Activists have called her arrest a warning to those who want to show support for anti-government protests and an “attack on democracy”.

“This government of India is attacking environmental activists and Disha’s arrest shows there is a clear, deeply worrying pattern,” said Leo Saldhana, an environmental activist in Bangalore. “The point here is to destabilise and then erase all dissent.”

Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting for three months against new laws, which they say will benefit only big corporations.

These protests have come to represent one of the biggest challenges faced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government.

Disha, the granddaughter of farmers, has thrown her support passionately behind their cause.

She is no stranger to activism. In 2019, inspired by Thunberg, whose global climate protest movement Fridays for Future saw millions of the world’s schoolchildren striking against the failure to tackle global warming, Disha co-founded the Indian branch of the FFF network and began organising strikes across the country.

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