As an international conspiracy falls apart against India’s adored climate activist Disha Ravi, big tech is being forced to answer for its role in aiding a national tyranny.
In India, one of the nation’s most affected by climate change, it appears eco-activists are no longer safe to protest.
Last month, Disha Ravi – a 22-year-old climate activist and one of the founders of Fridays for Future – was arrested on conspiracy of waging ‘economic, social, cultural, and regional war against India,’ according to local police.
Sparking outrage from those who know Ravi as a peaceful and lawful campaigner, as well as eco-activists across the globe, the case has been described by the chief minister of Delhi as ‘an unprecedented attack on democracy.’
Disha Ravi, arrested by CyPAD Delhi Police, is an Editor of the Toolkit Google Doc & key conspirator in document's formulation & dissemination. She started WhatsApp Group & collaborated to make the Toolkit doc. She worked closely with them to draft the Doc. @PMOIndia @HMOIndia https://t.co/e8QGkyDIVv
— #DilKiPolice Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) February 14, 2021
The country has long been tittering on the edge of becoming yet another Orwellian state, where criticism prompts cries of ‘defamation’ from its nationalist government. Yet, to the delight of campaigners in Delhi, the case against Ravi is predictably crumbling in court.
While the initial indictments levelled against Ravi look set to tail off, there are disturbing reports of ensnarement at the hands of Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook that still need to be answered for.
The arrest of Disha Ravi
This may well be the first time you’re hearing about Ravi’s arrest, but in India the story has made front page news for weeks.
Referred to in Delhi press as the ‘Toolkit Conspiracy,’ the police’s ongoing investigation of Ravi – along with fellow activists Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk – centres on the contents of a social media ‘how to’ guide that Greta Thunberg tweeted in early February.
This ‘toolkit’ was merely a Google Doc drafted together by an ad-hoc of Indian activists to generate support and show solidarity with farmers protesting new corporate policies set to strangle the country’s agriculture industry. For the full picture, check our previous story here.
The protests, which have seen more than 250 million workers go on nationwide strikes, will not end until the Indian government revokes new laws on agricultural reform that could drive down crop prices and devastate earnings.https://t.co/uy4iOe8Zbh
— Sofia Phillips (@sofiaelenap) December 17, 2020
The list contained a number of quick clicktivism acts one can take to elevate the movement, such as using the hashtags #FarmersProtest and #StandWithFarmers, signing petitions, and writing to local representatives about the issue. You know, the types of acts that take place all day every day on social media networks?
Pointing to the issue’s climate connection, with increased droughts, heatwaves, and flooding already complicating the work of farmers, Ravi has also been personally touched by the issue. Her grandparents were both farmers, and she witnessed first-hand the damage extreme weather can have on crops and people’s livelihoods.
This Google Doc is the key piece of ‘evidence’ responsible for landing Ravi in jail, where she was interrogated by police for over nine days and initially denied bail. She has since returned home, but the indictments levelled at the 22-year-old and her ‘co-conspirators’ still include (but aren’t limited to) ‘sedition, incitement, dissemination, and conspiracy against the state.’
Specifically, the arresting authorities stated that the Google Doc was a ‘call to wage economic, social, cultural and regional war against India.’ No, unfortunately we’re not kidding.
Lamenting the ‘wounded vanity of governments’ in continuing to go after NGOs and activists for simply questioning state policy, the ruling judge on the case rightly granted Ravi bail and made a forceful condemnation of the Delhi police:
‘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,’ he wrote. As for sharing the toolkit with Thunberg, ‘the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience.’
I bet you’re wondering right about now, just what the tech companies involved have to say on the subject. Deep breaths everyone.