On the front page of the media or on placards calling for his release, his face has become a symbol of the severity of the arrests targeting dissenting voices in India. Before being arrested last weekend, Disha Ravi, 22, was unknown to the general public. But part of public opinion today sympathizes with the environmental activist, from an Indian youth aware of environmental causes.
Because Disha Ravi could be everyone’s daughter. Vegetarian, animal lover, according to those around her, she is driven by ideals of social justice and ecological respect. In her hometown of Bangalore, she campaigned to clean up lakes and replant trees. With her comrades, she had founded a local branch of Fridays for Future, the climate movement of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Recently, the young woman showed solidarity with the demonstrations of Indian peasants, who have been protesting for three months at the gates of New Delhi, 2000 km from home, against the liberalization of the agricultural sector. A movement that refuses to die out and puts the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi in difficulty.
The police accuse Disha Ravi of having fueled the clashes that took place in the capital on January 26 between peasants and the police, by posting a support kit on Twitter that had been shared by Greta Thunberg. This file, which listed classic actions of agitation, would be indirectly linked to “anti-national” elements. The young woman is thus accused of having taken part in a conspiracy aimed at “launching an economic, social and cultural war against India”. She is now being held for “criminal conspiracy”, “organizing riots” and “sedition”, a charge punishable by life imprisonment. A court ruling on his request for provisional release is expected on Tuesday.
The opposition condemns with fury this arrest, described as “absolutely atrocious” by the former Minister of the Environment Jairam Ramesh. “An unprecedented attack on democracy,” said Delhi chief executive Arvind Kejriwal. This case “illustrates the growing crackdown on freedom of expression and political opposition in India,” said MP Shashi Tharoor, referring to a recent series of arrests, often carried out by means of the dreaded law. against sedition.
For their part, the authorities ensure that the procedures are followed. “Should we decide on a crime or a guilt according to sex, age and profession?” Interior Minister Amit Shah retorted to those who defended the militant’s good-natured profile.
The case is seen as a strategy to reduce the sympathy enjoyed by the farmers. “The government manages above all to divert the attention that was paid to them,” said political scientist Rahul Verma of the Center for Policy Research. He indicates that he will not tolerate any so-called anti-national activity. ” For the political commentator Arati Jerath, this arrest is a response “to the international interest in favor of the peasants, embodied in particular by Greta Thunberg”, and constitutes a warning to the “foreign environmental lobbies, who have resumed their voice since Donald’s defeat. Trump, so that they do not interfere in Indian affairs ”.
Putting the young environmentalist behind bars has already succeeded in sending, according to historian Ramachandra Guha, “a chilling message to Indian youth”.