The recent arrest of a young climate activist in India for her association with a guide to passive resistance movements has once again exposed the true colours of the world’s so called largest democracy.

Twenty-one-year-old Disha Ravi was arrested by Delhi Police from Bengaluru under conspiracy charges.

Her only fault is her link with a toolkit built by the Canada-based Poetic Justice Foundation.

#AskIndiaWhy is an amazing document that reveals how the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist government in India is suppressing the rights of religious minorities, marginalized groups and political dissidents, including farmers who have been protesting near New Delhi against controversial laws threatening their livelihoods. Available online, the toolkit educates readers how to raise their voices against an intolerant regime led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A quick tour of the document shows that it merely guides people how to use peaceful means to show solidarity with the protesting farmers worldwide. Any sane person can see that the toolkit is not a terror manual as the Indian state is trying to make people believe.

The trouble began when Greta Thunberg, a global icon of the climate justice movement, shared it on twitter while showing her support for the agitating farmers.Outraged over international support received by the struggle, the Indian government is using every tool in its toolbox to vilify those who have raised their voices. Following Greta’s tweet, the Delhi police filed a criminal conspiracy case to launch an investigation. Disha, being part of the climate justice network, came under scanner, and the police are trying to portray her as the supporter of Khalistan – an imaginary Sikh state to be carved out of Punjab. Their argument is that some of those associated with Poetic Justice Foundation have pro-Khalistan inclinations.

Even if for the argument sake we believe what the police are saying, asking for Khalistan through democratic means is not a crime. Secondly, the toolkit that is a cornerstone of this case is neither a pro-Khalistan document, nor does it incite hatred or violence. On the contrary, those in power continue to spread hatred and violence against minorities and political opponents with impunity. If that is all acceptable, then why such selectivity towards Khalistan?

The hounding of Disha is more about trampling the right to resist than about Khalistan, a dead issue which is being constantly used to rile up the Hindu majority against the farmers from Punjab, who are predominantly Sikhs. For the record, it is not the first time that the Khalistan issue has been evoked during the ongoing agitation. It has been evoked numerous times even in the past to silence anyone holding alternative viewpoints within the Sikh community. Similarly, any Muslim opponent is labelled as Jihadi or Pakistani, whereas anyone from the majority community is conveniently branded as anti-national. For most left wing opponents, this government repeatedly uses the expression of “urban naxal”. Disha has therefore joined the long list of those who have been demonized and thrown behind bars under draconian laws for the past several years now.

It’s time for all those at the receiving to join hands and fight back together against such blatant fascism. Besides Disha, all political prisoners need to be released and allowed to work freely by using toolkit to make India a better place on earth. Otherwise, India will face consequences for these actions that go against the spirit of democracy and a free society.

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist


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