Gurpreet Singh: A toolkit is not a terror manual, which is why Indian authorities must free Disha Ravi
The recent arrest of a young Indian climate activist in India has once again exposed the true colours of the world’s so called largest democracy.
A week ago, 22-year-old Disha Ravi was taken into custody by Delhi Police at her home in the South Indian city of Bengaluru. She's been charged with sedition, intent to provoke rioting, and criminal conspiracy.
Her only fault is her link to 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. These include farmers who have been protesting against controversial laws threatening their livelihood near New Delhi.
Available online, the toolkit educates readers how to raise their voices against an intolerant regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A quick run through 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 anyone 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 the international support that the farmers' struggle has received, the Indian government is using every tool in its toolbox to vilify those who have raised their voices.
Following Thunberg’s tweet, the Delhi police filed a criminal conspiracy case to launch an investigation. Ravi, being part of the climate-justice network, came under scrutiny.
Police are even trying to portray her as a supporter of Khalistan—an imaginary Sikh state that its supporters would like to be carved out of the northwestern Indian state of Punjab.
Authorities are arguing that some of those associated with the Poetic Justice Foundation have pro-Khalistan inclinations.
Even if, for argument's sake, we believe what the police are saying, asking for Khalistan through democratic means is not a crime. Secondly, the toolkit that is 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 Ravi is more about trampling the right to resist than being concerned about Khalistan, a dead issue that's constantly used to rile the Hindu majority against the farmers from Punjab, who are predominantly Sikhs.
For the record, it is not the first time that Khalistan issue has been evoked during the ongoing agitation. It has been brought up numerous times in the past to silence anyone holding an alternative viewpoint from within the Sikh community.
Similarly, any Muslim opponent is labelled as a "jihadi" or "Pakistani", whereas anyone from the majority community is conveniently branded as "antinational".
For most left-wing opponents, the Indian government repeatedly uses the expression of “urban naxal”.
Riva has therefore joined the long list of those who have been demonized and thrown behind bars under draconian laws over the past several years now. She will find out on Tuesday (February 23) if she will be freed on bail.
Meanwhile, Thunberg has registered her displeasure over Twitter, using the hashtag #StandWithDishaRavi.
All those who agree must fight back together against such blatant fascism.
In addition to Ravi, all political prisoners need to be released and allowed to work freely by using this toolkit to make India a better place on Earth.
Otherwise, India will face consequences for these actions that go against the spirit of a free and democratic society.