Live TV

Indian climate activist linked to Greta Thunberg arrested

14.02.2021

Police alleged that Disha Ravi edited a farmers' protest document, which was tweeted by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. New Delhi has come under fire for its clampdown on protesters.

Indian police on Saturday arrested a 22-year-old environmental activist for creating a guide to the ongoing protests by farmers that was tweeted by Greta Thunberg in early February.

The activist was remanded in custody until a court hearing in five days' time. Police have not named Thunberg in the case.

A police statement said Ravi was a "key conspirator in the document's formulation and dissemination."

The "toolkit" document shared by Thunberg encourages people to sign a petition that condemns the "state violence" against the protesters. It also urges the government to listen to the protesters rather than mock them. It mentions different hashtags to use on Twitter to support the protests. Additionally, it asked for people worldwide to organize protests near Indian embassies or and domestically at government offices on February 13 and 14.

Delhi police said Ravi and her group had "shared" the toolkit with Thunberg.

The Bangalore-based activist is a founder of Fridays For Future India, which is part of an international protest network established by Thunberg to highlight climate change issues.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of India's capital, Delhi, for over two months, demanding a repeal of new agricultural laws that they say benefit private corporations.

Social media clampdown

Celebrities, including the singer Rihanna, Thunberg, the US lawyer and activist Meena Harris — the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris — and lawmakers in the UK and the United States have backed the farmers in posts on social media. The Indian government slammed them for endorsing the protests.

Following these posts, police launched an investigation into people accused of stirring "disaffection and ill will" against the government.

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts in India at the request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which has been trying to contain protests by clamping down on demonstrators' online activity.

Twitter stopped short of complying with demands to block accounts that belonged to activists, politicians and journalists, arguing that that would "violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law."

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
India slams international celebrities

Celebrities including singer Rihanna, climate change activist Greta Thunberg, US lawyer and activist Meena Harris — the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris — and lawmakers in the UK and the US have backed the protesting farmers in posts on social media. The Indian government slammed them for endorsing the huge farmers' protests against new agricultural laws.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Contentious agriculture laws

In September 2020, India's parliament passed three controversial agriculture bills aimed at liberalizing the country's farm sector. They were subsequently signed into law, sparking farmers' protests across the country. The government argued that the new laws will give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside regulated markets and enter into contracts with buyers at a pre-agreed price.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
What are the protests about?

Farmers' associations say the legislation does not guarantee the acquisition of farm produce at the minimum support price, thus leaving them at the mercy of corporations that are now expected to enter the country's troubled farming sector. Violence erupted on January 26 during a tractor parade. Since then there have been sporadic skirmishes between protesters, police and anti-farmer groups.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Rihanna

The Barbadian pop star is among one of the international celebrities who expressed solidarity with India's protesting farmers. She tweeted: "Why are we not talking about it?" referring to the demonstrations. Rihanna's tweet has drawn a global outpouring of support. On the contrary, many Indian celebrities defend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's farming policies.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Greta Thunberg

The 18-year-old climate activist shared a piece of news on Twitter about the internet shutdown in some parts of Delhi and wrote: "We stand in solidarity with the #Farmers Protest in India." Thunberg's message of support for Indian farmers angered the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party's supporters, who condemned her stance.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Justin Trudeau

The Canadian prime minister is one of the few heads of state who have expressed support to protesting farmers. In December 2020, Trudeau described the situation as "worrisome." The Indian Foreign Ministry said that Trudeau's remark was an "unacceptable interference in India's internal affairs."

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Amanda Cerny

The well-known Instagram influencer shared a picture of three Indian women on her account along with this caption: "The world is watching. You don't have to be Indian or Punjabi or South Asian to understand the issue. All you have to do is care about humanity. Always demand freedom of speech, freedom of the press, basic human and civil rights-equity and dignity for workers."

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Meena Harris

"We all should be outraged by India's internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters," tweeted Meena Harris, a lawyer and niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Jim Costa

US Democrat Jim Costa also lent his support to protesting Indian farmers. "The unfolding events in India are troubling. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am closely monitoring the situation. The right to peaceful protest must always be respected," he said.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
Rupi Kaur

Kaur is a blogger best known for her short poems. In a Twitter post, she thanked Rihanna for highlighting the farmers' plight. More than half of India's farmers are reportedly in debt, with 20,638 committing suicide in 2018 and 2019, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau.

International celebrities show support for India's protesting farmers
John Cusack

John Cusack, an American actor and activist, has been supporting the Indian farmers' movement since January. He has been regularly tweeting messages in support of the protesting farmers.

1
| 11

Rights groups 'worried' for Ravi's safety

Jairam Ramesh, an opposition lawmaker, called Ravi's arrest and detention "completely atrocious" and "unwarranted harassment and intimidation."

A coalition demanded Ravi's release and said activist groups were "extremely worried for her safety and well-being."

A friend of Ravi's wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the activist "needs a strong voice to get justice" with the hashtag #ReleaseDishaRavi.

What are the farmers' protests about?

In September, India's Parliament passed three agriculture bills aimed at liberalizing the country's farm sector. They were subsequently signed into law, sparking farmers to protest across the country.

The government argued that the new laws will give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside regulated markets and enter into contracts with buyers at agreed prices.

The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insists that the laws will fetch better prices and free farmers from traditional middlemen who dominate the trade. The government hopes that its new policy will double farmers' income by 2022.

03:40 mins.
DW News | 25.01.2021

Farmers roll into Delhi for Republic Day tractor rally

Farmer associations say the legislation does not guarantee the acquisition of produce at the minimum support price, thus leaving growers at the mercy of corporations that are now expected to enter the country's troubled farming sector.

In January, India's top court put the laws on hold and formed a committee to resolve the standoff.

Farmers have held huge rallies across the country in the past few years to protest the government's "neglect" of the agriculture sector and increasing privatization.

More than half of India's farmers are reportedly in debt, with 20,638 dying by suicide in 2018 and 2019, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau.

shs/mm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)