A 22-year-old climate activist has appeared, which is a sign of the Indian government’s suppression of dissidents, as the country faces a growing crisis after months of protests by angry farmers.
Disha Ravi was arrested last weekend and charged with sedition. On Friday, the Delhi court approved the police’s request to extend his detention period for another three days. Her lawyer said she was illegally arrested.
Ravi’s arrest triggered protests across the country and again raised concerns about authoritarian opposition to protests that deter farmers in the country.
She is accused of helping to create and share an online “toolkit”
Since November, thousands of farmers have camped in the capital to protest the new agricultural laws, which they say may destroy their livelihoods and make them vulnerable to exploitation by big companies.
Ravi enthusiastically supports this cause, expressing his support for farmers on Twitter, because farmers have posed a rare and significant challenge to the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Farmers are the most influential voting group in India and an important part of the Indian economy.
Ravi, a well-known figure in the country’s growing environmental movement, co-founded the Indian chapter of Thunberg’s “Future Friday (FFF)” movement. The movement is an international movement, and students skipped class on Friday to protest inaction on climate change.
The movement has gained widespread attention in India and established FFF chapters in more than 40 states. Ravi appeared frequently at protests and became increasingly famous for his negative views on the issue and Modi’s environmental policies.
Critics and opponents have disputed claims that the toolkit has incited violence during farmer protests, and the charge of sedition-which may be sentenced to life imprisonment-raises concerns about the future of such movements in India.
Meenakshi Ganguly, director of South Asia Human Rights Watch, described the colonial sedition law as “strict” and called for its repeal.
Ganguly told NBC News that he criticized India’s so-called “rampant abuse.”
Statistics show that since Modi came to power in 2014, there has been an increase in cases of inciting sedition, as have cases involving writers, journalists, and opposition politicians.
Ganguri said: “The authorities did not show peaceful criticism of the policy, nor did they defend their rights. Instead, they showed prejudice and accused critics of severe sedition or anti-terrorism laws, and they also failed to prosecute government supporters who participated in the violence. Use this to target critics.”.
However, members of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhatia Janata Party (BJP) defended the use of the law and rejected any suggestions to suppress dissent.
Tom Vadakkan, a spokesman for the BJP National Party, told the BBC: “We are a country that firmly believes in non-violence, but if there are provocations and creation factors that affect the country’s image, then this law still applies.
Ravi’s arrest provoked the outrage of prominent figures including lawyers and writers, and Meena Harris, the niece of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. Some Indian politicians, including members of the main opposition party, also expressed anger.
Others see it as an effort to stop future activism.
Licypriya Kangujam, a nine-year-old climate activist, told NBC News that the case could “make India the most insecure and serious place for global climate and environmental activists.”
She said: “This is an attempt to silence the voices of young girls and women in the country.”
Kangujam, sometimes referred to as the “Greta of India,” was detained by the police during a protest against Delhi’s shocking air pollution levels in October last year.
But she vowed not to be coerced and continued to pressure the government.
Kangujam said: “As climate activists, it is our moral obligation to support our farmers. They are already victims of climate change.”