Climate activist Disha Ravi, who was recently released on bail by a Delhi court in the toolkit case related to the ongoing farmers’ protest, released a statement on Saturday (March 13), speaking up on the matter for the first time since her arrest.
Disha, 22, the founder of Fridays For Future India was arrested by a team of Delhi Police from her Bengaluru residence on February 13 and was flown to the national capital. Charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘criminal conspiracy’ were pressed on her. She was sent to a five-day police custody and on February 19 to another three-days of judicial custody.
The ‘toolkit’, a document for campaigners to raise awareness on issues and suggest strategies for the farmers’ protest, was tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on February 3, triggering outcry from a section of public who called it a conspiracy by the protesters.
Posting a four-page open letter on her social media handles, Disha spoke about her arrest, her state of mind and how she felt her “autonomy” violated and her actions pronounced guilty by “seekers of TRPs”.
“In all the years that someone had asked me where I see myself in 5 years, I would have never answered ‘jail’, but here I was,” she begins.
I’m letting this out into the internet void in order to present a narrative that is my own.
P.S. This is based on my personal experience and does not represent the opinion of any climate movement, group, or organisation. pic.twitter.com/djrieCZcn8
— Disha 𓆉 (@disharavii) March 13, 2021
“I have 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 – the police did not knock on my door on 13 February, 2021; they did not take my phone and laptop, and arrest me; they did not present me at Patiala House Court…”
She recalls how while standing in the courtroom she was desperately searching for her lawyers, only to realise that she will have to speak for herself.
“I came to terms with the fact that I would have to defend myself. I had no idea whether there was legal assistance available so when the judge asked me if I have anything to say, I decided to speak my mind. Before I knew it, I was sent to 5 days in police custody,” she says.
Disha says while she sat unaware of the happenings outside, assumptions were made against her in the media along with photos of her.
“My photographs were splashed all over the news; my actions were pronounced guilty – not in the court of law, but on flat screens by seekers of TRPs. I sat there, unaware of the many abstractions made of me in order to satiate their idea of me,” she writes.
When she was sent to Tihar jail on a three-day judicial custody starting February 19, Disha says she was aware of every second of whole time.
“I Tihar, I was aware of every second of every minute of every hour of every day. 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. Why were millions paying the ultimate price for the greed of a few hundred?” she says.
Recounting how she was introduced, albeit indirectly, to climate activism by her farmer grandparents, Disha says it is also an attempt to fight for human rights and lend voice to those silence by the masses.
“It is a fight alongside those who are displaced; whose rivers have been poisoned; whose lands were stolen; who watch their houses get washed away every other season; and those who fight tirelessly for what are basic human rights. We fight alongside those actively silenced by the masses and portrayed as ‘voiceless’, because it is easier for savarnas to call them voiceless. We take the easy way out and fund saviourism rather than amplify the voices on ground,” she writes.
Disha was granted bail on February 23 by a Delhi court which said, “sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments”. It also rapped the police for furnishing “scanty and sketchy evidence” against the activist with no criminal antecedents.