Students organised a protest in front of Delhi Police Headquarters at Ashoka Road, New Delhi, on Tuesday demanding freedom for environmentalist Disha Ravi, who was arrested in Bengaluru by Delhi Police on Saturday (February 13) for allegedly editing and sharing a protest toolkit backing the farmers' agitation against the Centre's new agriculture laws.
The toolkit at the centre of controversy was shared on Twitter by internationally acclaimed climate activist Greta Thunberg. A "toolkit" is a document widely used across the world for organisation of protests; it provides information on what one needs to do to address the issue, including information about petitions, details about protests and events.
The students’ protest in Delhi, organised under the banner of All India Students' Association (AISA), extended solidarity to 21-year-old Ravi, whose arrest has sparked outrage among activists, politicians and legal experts. The protest went on for a couple of hours until the Delhi Police started threatening to detain the protesters.
In a statement released on Monday, February 15, AISA said that the FIR and the allegation of a conspiracy against Ravi came after many international human right activists, artists and people’s representatives from various countries raised concerns about reports of violation of human rights of the agitating farmers in India.
Talking to NewsClick, Ritwik, a student of Delhi University, who was one of the protesters, said, “The government is burying the voice of anyone who speaks against it. The ruling party regularly organises Twitter storms, tweets malicious things, and no one bats an eyelid. When we students protest, we do not say anything malicious, we just ask the government to listen. But the government will not let us do that either.”
Kawalpreet Kaur, vice president of AISA, told NewsClick, “The BJP government at the Centre has been trying to stop anyone who dares to dissent. They think that this will stop others from speaking up.” However, she added that she does not think the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government will succeed in doing so. Kaur added, “The more they try to stop us, the more people will start speaking up. And we will see how many of us they can stop. They can’t arrest everyone if all the citizens of the country start speaking up against them, can they?”
The statement by AISA added, “The BJP-RSS have been using this toolkit bogey to intimidate and witch hunt students, intellectuals, teachers, activists and people raising their voices to defend democracy and rights. Just like they tried to malign students’ movements in the recent past, they are now trying their best to come up with new ways to malign farmers’ protest and also clamp down on people standing with the farmers’ protest. Most of these arrests have been made using age-old draconian laws. In fact, the Delhi Police failed to provide the FIR copy, failed to produce her before a jurisdictional magistrate and blatantly flouted the rule of law.”
The students have demanded that Disha Ravi be released immediately, and the police drop all fabricated charges against her. They added, “If there is any conspiracy, it is only the conspiracy of the RSS-BJP Govt to malign the ongoing farmers' protest using the tools of police force, arrest, draconian laws, to hand over the agricultural sector to people like Ambani.”