Activist Disha Ravi breaks silence on sedition arrest, says she felt 'violated'

Disha Ravi
Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist, leaves after an investigation at National Cyber Forensic Lab, in New Delhi, February 23, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

New Delhi: Indian climate activist Disha Ravi said on Saturday she felt "violated" by her arrest last month on sedition charges and her treatment by the media, her first comments on a case that sparked international criticism.

Disha, a 22-year-old vegan and member of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future movement, was charged in February over an online document about months-long protests by Indian farmers.

Ten days after her arrest and following widespread criticism, a court in New Delhi granted her bail, citing “scanty and sketchy evidence” that she was involved in fomenting violence.

"I had coerced myself into believing that the only way I would be able to live through this was by tricking myself into thinking that this wasn't happening to me," Ravi said in a statement.

"My actions were pronounced guilty - not in the court of law, but on flat screens."

Police say the document Ravi created stoked violence on January 26, India’s Republic Day, when some protesting farmers broke free of a planned march and clashed with police.

Angry at new agricultural laws they say benefit large private buyers at the expense of growers, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi since late last year.

People hold placards during a protest against the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi
People hold placards during a protest against the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi, in Bengaluru, February 15, 2021. File photo: REUTERS/Samuel Rajkumar

Swedish climate activist Thunberg, popstar Rihanna, and US activist Meena Harris, the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, all tweeted in support of the protests last month, drawing a rebuke from India's foreign ministry.

"Locked in my cell, I wondered when it became a crime to think the most basic elements of sustenance on this planet were as much mine as theirs," the activist from Bengaluru said in her four-page statement posted on Twitter.

Expressing her gratitude to the people who came out in her support and fought her case pro bono (term usually refers to services that are rendered by a professional for free or at a lower cost), she said the past few days had been painful.

"I was lucky enough to have excellent pro bono legal assistance but what of all those who do not? What of all those still in jail whose stories are not marketable? What of the marginalised that are not worthy of your screen time?" Ravi argued.

Ravi, who hails from Bengaluru, was arrested on charges of sedition by the Delhi police on February 16. She was arrested for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to amplify the protests against the new farm laws.

The 'toolkit' a common term used by social activists for campaign material was also tweeted by Thunberg.

In its order granting Ravi bail on February 23, the Delhi court said there was nothing on record to suggest that Ravi "subscribed to any secessionist idea".

"The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments," the court order read.  

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