Disha Ravi is an Indian environmental activist and a founder of Fridays For Future India, the Indian wing of the environment conservation movement started by Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg in 2018. Disha gathered the attention of people across the globe after she was arrested on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy on 13 February 2021 for allegedly editing and authoring a toolkit posted by Greta Thunberg on her Twitter account on 3 February 2021.
Disha Ravi was born in 1998 (age 23 years; as of 2021) in Soladevanahalli, Bengaluru, Karnataka. Her full name is Disha Annappa Ravi. Indian Express She has done her graduation in Business administration with a specialisation in finance from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She is further planning to pursue a masters in conservation. BBC Until her arrest in the toolkit case, she was working as a culinary manager at Goodmylk, a company making plant-based vegan food readily available for people.
Family & Religion
Disha Ravi’s father, Ravi Annappa, is an athletics coach in Mysore, while her mother, Manjula Nanjaiah, is a homemaker. Both her parents are followers of Lingayatism, a religion in which only Shiva is worshipped. The religion is officially considered a part of Hinduism and is mostly practised among people in Southern India. On the other hand, Ravi does not follow any religion and describes herself as an atheist. The Indian Express
Reportedly, Disha Ravi started activism in the wake of a flood that affected her family members. She realised that rampant climate change had caused the flood and decided to jump into climate activism. In an interview with Auto Report Africa (an African news platform), Ravi revealed the reason that motivated her to join climate activism. She said,
My motivation to join climate activism came from seeing my grandparents, who are farmers, struggle with the effects of the climate crisis. At the time, I wasn’t aware that what they were experiencing was the climate crisis because climate education is non-existent where I’m from.”
She also takes part in other community events such as clean-up drives and plantation drives.
As a co-founder of Fridays For Future (FFF) in India, she organises and participates in various climate strikes across Bengaluru. Speaking about the aim of FFF during an interview in 2020, Disha said,
FFF International does not have a single goal. Earlier, our goal was to declare a climate emergency. The countries that declared climate emergency did not act on it and that is when we decided we wanted climate justice where the government prioritises climate action and ecological sustainability above all else. We do not have set demands and we want to make different demands work for different countries.”
The Toolkit Case
On 4 February 2021, Greta Thunberg shared a toolkit in support of farmers and later deleted it and uploaded an updated version of the information kit.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 2, 2021
The toolkit stated its aim was “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”. On the contrary, the Delhi Police alleged that the toolkit was an international conspiracy against India, created by a handful of Indian activists in collaboration with a pro-Khalistani separatist outfits ‘Sikhs For Justice’ and ‘Poetic Justice Foundation.’ Police also said that the toolkit was also one of the reasons behind the violence that broke out in the national capital, Delhi, during the farmer’s tractor parade on 26 January 2021. The Delhi Police maintained that Disha Ravi, together with Nikita Jacob (lawyer) and Shantanu Muluk (engineer), created a toolkit and shared it with others to malign the image of India as a nation.
On 13 February 2021, Disha Ravi was detained for interrogation by a cyber crime unit of the Delhi police. She was arrested from her home in North Bengaluru. She was the first one to be picked in the case. After a long interrogation, the Delhi Police booked her for criminal conspiracy and sedition and charged her with IPC Sections 124(A) (for sedition), 153(A) (for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), and 120(B) (for criminal conspiracy).
On 14 February 2021, Disha Ravi was produced before the Patiala House Court, where she was questioned by the state prosecutor regarding various charges framed against her. The prosecutor accused her of being part of an anti-national conspiracy to malign India’s image globally. He said that the toolkit edited and shared by Disha is a part of an international conspiracy against India, and it had played a part in inciting violence that happened in Delhi on 26 January 2021. She was also alleged of maintaining links with pro-Khalistani separatist groups. In response to the accusations against her, Disha denied being a part of any international conspiracy or having been connected with any separatist group. She said that she had merely edited 2 lines in the toolkit. She added that the content in the toolkit was aimed to garner support for farmers’ protest and did not, in any manner, called for violence. She broke down while concluding her statement in front of the judge saying,
I was just supporting farmers, I supported farmers because they are our future and we all need to eat.”
After the hearing ended, the court sent her to 5-day police custody. After the 5-day police custody ended on 19 February, Disha was again produced before a single bench of Additional Sessions Court Judge Dharmender Rana. During the hearing, Disha made several statements through her counsel. One of the statements was,
The Delhi police gave permission for the farmers’ march, which they’re claiming that I (Ravi) asked people to join, so how did I become seditious. If highlighting the farmers’ protest globally is sedition, then I’m better in jail.”
After a three-hour-long court hearing, the court reserved Disha’s bail order till 23 February 2021 and sent her to judicial custody for three days.
Bail & Highlights from the Bail Order
On 23 February 2021, after staying behind the bars for 9 days, Disha Ravi was granted bail in connection with the toolkit case.
Reportedly, the bail was granted after the police failed to produce any legit evidence that could prove Disha Ravi to be guilty of any illegal activity. In the 18-page bail order, the Additional Sessions Court Judge Dharmender Rana presented several reasons for releasing her on bail.
Here is what ASJ Dharmender Rana had to say while granting bail to Disha Ravi.
- One of the principal arguments presented against Disha Ravi in the court of law was that Disha’s alleged associates, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu, had taken part in a zoom call meeting for farmers’ protest, which was also attended by certain pro-Khalistani elements of PJF and 60-70 other people from different parts of the globe. To this, the court said,
Mere engagement with persons of dubious credentials not indictable, purpose of engagement is relevant for deciding culpability.”
- Another argument raised in the court was Disha’s connection to Republic Day violence in Delhi. To this, the court said that even though hundreds of people have been put behind the bars for Republic Day violence, but still, no evidence linking Disha Ravi with the real culprits of the Republic Day violence has been produced before the court.
- The court also stated that just sharing a platform with the people who oppose government policies or are of a separatist mindset can not bring about the assumption that the person also supports their tendencies. The judge quoted,
In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on January 26 with the founders of PJF, it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence caused on January 26, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation”
- Talking about the controversial toolkit, the court said that after going through the document, it can be concluded that no part of the informational toolkit calls for violence.
- While pronouncing the bail order, the court stated that no citizen can be detained simply on the basis of their disagreement with the government policies. It said,
Offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.”
The court also mentioned an extract from the Rigveda that said that the Indian civilisation has always respected diversified views.
This 5000 years old civilization of ours has never been averse to ideas from varied quarters. The following couplet in Rig Veda embodies our cultural ethos expressing our respect for divergent opinions.आ नो भदाः कतवो यनतु िवशवतोऽदबधासो अपरीतास उिददः। (Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions).”
- Apparently, the toolkit that Disha had slightly edited and shared on her social media account involved gathering international support for the farmers’ protest in India. To this, the court suggested,
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”
- As per the report of the Delhi Police, Disha Ravi had created a Whatsapp group by the name “International Farmers’ Strike.” She had also added numerous anonymous people to the group. Another charge against her was editing the toolkit. To this, the judge said,
In my considered opinion, creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence.”
- The court observed that all the pieces of evidence presented before it are ‘Scanty and Sketchy.’ Thus, it found no logical reason for further extending the police or judicial custody of the accused. Justice Dharmender Rana of the Additional Sessions Court concluded the bail order by saying,
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.”
- According to a report published by The Indian Express, Disha Ravi turned vegan after starting activism for environmental causes. Indian Express