In an order granting bail to 22-year old climate activist Disha Ravi, who had been taken into custody for preparing and sharing a toolkit on the ongoing farmers’ protest, a Sessions Court in Delhi made certain assertions in the case against the use of the sedition law to curb dissent by jailing citizens who dissent or disagree. “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation. They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies”, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana observed in the bail order. Disha was arrested from her Bengaluru home on February 13.
Who is Disha Ravi?
Disha Ravi is now accused of being a “key conspirator” for preparing and sharing the toolkit on the farmers’ protests. According to the Delhi Police, she is the one who shared the toolkit with Greta Thunberg. Disha is a climate activist from Bengaluru, who is a founder-member of the Fridays for Future (FFF) campaign in India. The FFF campaign is meant to create climate-related awareness and the dangers of global warming. It came into being from the climate strike movement in school that climate warrior Greta Thunberg began three years ago in 2018. The essence of the campaign was that students skipped classes to take part in climate awareness campaigns seeking changes in policy-making in order to address the challenges posed by global warming. The participants of the FFF campaign in India echoed the same call by skipping the classes on Fridays to take part in demonstrations to put pressure on the political leadership. All of this is meant to address the challenges of climate change and global warming. The major aim is to frame policies that ensure a smooth transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one that is run by renewable and sustainable energy.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) February 23, 2021
What did the judges say while granting bail to Disha Ravi?
Here are the top five things the court said:
1. “The resistance to the bail plea seems to be more of ornamental in nature…Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘Bail’ against a 22-year-old young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail.”
2. “In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on 26.01.2021 with the founders of PJF (Poetic Justice Foundation), it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence caused on 26.01.2021, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation. There is not even an iota of evidence brought to my notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on 26.01.2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused.”
3. “The perusal of the said ‘Toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent. In my considered opinion, citizens are conscience keepers of the government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies.”
4. “Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘ Bail’ against a 22 years old young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail”.
5. “In my considered opinion the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience. There are no geographical barriers to communication. A Citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to an audience abroad”.
What is a toolkit and what did it say?
Simply put, a toolkit is a detailed collection of information/resources for workers engaged extensively in a task or a campaign. In computers, the term means a utility programme or an integrated set of software utilities containing complete databases related to a specific topic. It is now used as a guiding document for people involved in campaigns to provide them with the salient features of the task and provides an explanation of how to take it forward. A toolkit has the when, how, why and what needs to be done about the concerned task or campaign. In this specific case, the toolkit was mistakenly disclosed when climate activist Greta Thunberg on February 5 shared a Google document, which is said to be the detailed toolkit on the farmers’ protests, on her Twitter account. She had later deleted the tweet containing the toolkit however, it had become viral by then. The toolkit tried to “explain the farmers’ protests” against the Narendra Modi government at the Delhi borders over the farm laws passed by Parliament last year. “This is a document meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers’ protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis,” the toolkit reportedly said. The toolkit, as cited in media reports, further added, “Instead of being supported to become self-reliant and prosperous, a majority of farmers are increasingly being subjected to the control of large corporations and international institutions whose sole focus is profits, and necessarily involves increased exploitation of nature.” The idea behind creating and promoting a toolkit is to garner both online and on-ground support for protests, to unite supporters from far and wide and also to coordinate relief and rescue work at protest sites if when there is police action.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 19, 2021
Swedish teen climate activist Greta extended her support to Disha after she was arrested. “Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy,” Greta tweeted recently, using the hashtag #StandWithDishaRavi. Her support on a public platform came after a week of Disha’s arrest.