A 21-year-old environmentalist has been arrested in India after he allegedly used social media to mobilize support for protesting farmers by sharing a campaign “toolbox” promoted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Disha Ravi, a leader of the Indian branch of Thunberg’s Friday for the Future campaign movement, was taken to her home in Bangalore on Saturday and was reportedly flown to New Delhi for questioning by police.
Civil rights activists and human rights lawyers say this reflects New Delhi’s increasingly harsh approach to dissent and criticism.
Ravi’s detention comes as authorities investigate what they say is an international conspiracy against the Indian government, after Thunberg posted a tweet showing support for protesting farmers and providing a link to the toolkit.
India’s Foreign Ministry slammed the “sensationalist hashtags and social media comments” by celebrities following the Swedish activist’s posts and sharply criticized pop singer Rihanna after she wrote a tweet on demonstrations.
Police accused Ravi of playing an important role in developing and distributing the guide, which offers advice on how to participate and support the protests.
New Delhi is also in a tense standoff with Twitter to ask the social media site to block hundreds of accounts the government says have sought to stir up unrest, including journalists, newspapers, activists and politicians. of the opposition.
Ravi’s detention has raised alarm bells among activists and lawyers.
“Accusing a young climate activist of sedition – even though it is true that she played a role in a social media ‘toolbox’ – is deeply scandalous,” said Karuna Nundy, a lawyer at the Supreme Court. “This comes at a time when those who do not agree with government policy are systematically targeted for saying so.”
“Tackling the youngest and most vulnerable activists perhaps sends a frightening message,” she added.
Farmers protested for months against three new laws designed to deregulate India’s tightly controlled agricultural markets. Thousands of people have set up a camp on the outskirts of New Delhi, representing the biggest political challenge for Narendra Modi since he became Prime Minister in 2014.
Farmers fear that the new rules – which will allow businesses to buy directly from farmers – are a step towards ending fixed-price crop procurement, leaving them vulnerable to corporate exploitation.
New Delhi, however, alleges the protests are instigated by Sikh separatists abroad, who want to create an independent homeland called Khalistan in the state of Punjab.
The Sikh separatist movement ravaged India in the 1980s and caused scores of deaths, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but the campaign largely died out decades ago.
Analysts say linking the protests to a separatist movement allowed authorities to use tougher tactics, including a British colonial-era sedition law under which convicted people face jail time. life.