When I founded Countercurrents.org in 2002, Disha Ravi who was arrested for sedition yesterday was a two-year-old toddler. In 2002, the CO2 level in the atmosphere was 370 ppm. Now it is 415 ppm. In just 19 years CO2 levels increased by just over 2ppm/year. The level of cumulative greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including Methane, Nitrous Oxide etc is about 500 ppm. If the level of greenhouse gases increase at the current rate, there will be no ice in the Arctic by the end of the century and the sea level would have risen by several feet making many of the coastal cities around India and the world uninhabitable.
It is in this context Disha Ravi and the 18-year-old Greta Thunberg are fighting for climate justice. They are not fighting for themselves but for the entire humanity. If humanity is to survive on this planet, their fight must win. The elder generation should listen to them and act upon their demands.
However, what is happening? Disha Ravi, a 21-year-old climate activist from Bangalore has been arrested for editing a toolkit in support of the farmers’ agitation in India against the farm laws passed by the government without any discussion in the parliament which will make the farmers squatters in their own land. These laws also will make the farmers contract farmers for the big agri-corporations of the world. Disha Ravi has been charged with sedition, a colonial law, which was slapped on Mahatma Gandhi and several other freedom fighters. The Delhi police who arrested Disha says that by her action she brought ‘disaffection’ to the country. It is interesting to note that Disha Ravi was arrested for a toolkit (Google Doc) tweeted by Greta Thunberg. If the government of India had the jurisdiction to arrest Greta it would have arrested Greta! Instead, it arrested her compatriot Disha Ravi.
Is a toolkit which gives some suggestions to the people on how to support the farmers’ struggle seditious? If it is so, our republic has to do some introspection. When did protesting against the government become a seditious activity? When did preparing a pamphlet or toolkit become a seditious activity? If it is so all those who disagree with the government and express it are seditious! Simply speaking fascism has landed upon the land of India! Disha Ravi is the latest victim.
It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, famously said to a group of school children in a video interaction “Climate is not changing only we are changing”. We should not be surprised that climate activists are arrested on his watch.
The arrest of Disha Ravi should be seen in relation to the farmers’ struggle in India and how it is handled by the government of the day. Many prominent journalists and news organisations in India are targeted by the present government for not toeing the government line. It is a fact that in India the mainstream media have been silenced by the government authorities by several means, including pampering those who parrot the government narrative and intimidation, raids by income tax, enforcement directorate and other government agencies on those who resist. Thus, the mainstream media hardly pay any attention to the historic farmers’ agitation. It is the alternative media which is giving the due coverage to the historic protest. NewsClick.in, a news portal which has been courageously covering the farmers’ protest has been raided by the enforcement directorate allegedly for financial irregularities. The raid lasted for close to 100 hours. A few months ago the government of India raided Amnesty International and forced them to close their activities in India.
Why is the government trying to silence all the avenues of free speech? Why is the government arresting Disha Ravi? Doesn’t she have a right to free speech? Or is it a fact that right to free speech has ended in India and it has become a de facto fascist regime?
It is a well-known fact that the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) the ideological fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is modelled on the fascist regime of Mussolini. B.S. Moonje one of the founders of the RSS even visited Mussolini and wrote his profuse praise for the fascist storm troopers of Mussolini. M. S. Golwalkar who was the second chief of the RSS was a great admirer of the Nazi Germany and wanted RSS to emulate Nazism. Now that the followers of the Golwalkar are in power we are seeing the repeat of Nazi Germany in India in the arrest of Disha Ravi and several other prominent intellectuals, activists and journalists in India. Is India repeating the same methods of Nazi Germany? I think fascism is well entrenched in India.
Darshan Mondkar, a social media commentator wrote this on Facebook:
Sophie Scholl was a 21-year-old social activist in what was then called as Nazi-Germany. On 18th Feb 1943, Sophie was arrested by the Gestapo for distributing pamphlets in the University of Munich. These pamphlets contained information and instructions urging the people of Germany to resist the Nazi ideology. The said pamphlets gave procedures on how to passively and non violently dissent against the Govt. So basically these pamphlets were the “ToolKit” of 1940s.
The Gestapo found these pamphlets as a conspiracy against the Govt. Sophie was tried in the courts on charges of Treason. “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did” —- this was the only statement made by Sophie in her defense. Sophie was beheaded by a guillotine on 22nd Feb 1943. Sophie was beheaded not because she was wrong, but because she dared to raise her voice against the wrong.
Today in India, we have a Sadaf Jafar, a Nodeep Kaur, a Disha Ravi ….. Many Sophie’s of India who are raising their voice against what’s wrong. They are being arrested on frivolous charges, held in custody without going to trial, abused, beaten, man handled, allegedly sexually assaulted in custody. Not because they are wrong…. But because they dare…. Because somebody has to dare….. Because the rest of us don’t have the guts to dare.
My salute and respect to all these ladies who have been brave enough to raise their voices against a tyrannical establishment while having full knowledge of the compromised institutions that it holds, especially in a country where women are not supposed to dare…. I hope the rest of India doesn’t stand as passive bystanders, ignoring what’s happening in the front of their eyes. Because, India cannot have a Sophie…… We just can’t allow that to happen.
Disclaimer: “Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go… What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” ~ Sophie Scholl’s last words before she was beheaded for treason against the Nazi Govt.
Yes, India can not descend into the days of Nazis. Before that we have to wake up. India as a whole and the whole world in support of it should wake up and challenge this fascist regime. Otherwise, India is heading on the road of the Nazi Germany.
Binu Mathew is the editor of Countercurrents.org