Indian climate activist granted bail over farmer protests
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Indian climate activist granted bail over farmer protests

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 7:39 am AST

NEW DELHI — An Indian court on Tuesday granted a 22-year-old climate activist bail, 10 days after she was detained on sedition charges for her alleged role in the creation of an online document intended to help amplify farmer protests.

Disha Ravi is part of the Indian wing of Fridays for Future, a global climate change movement founded by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. She was arrested on Feb. 13 at her home in the southern city of Bengaluru by New Delhi police.

Police, who had detained Ravi for questioning, said she was a “key conspirator” in the “formulation and dissemination” of a protest document, which the authorities are calling a “toolkit.” They said the document spread misinformation about the months-long protests by farmers and “tarnished the image of India.”

The document is part of a police investigation into how a group of farmers stormed New Delhi’s historic Red Fort complex on Jan. 26, in one of the few violent incidents in otherwise peaceful ongoing protests on the fringes of the capital.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped outside New Delhi for three months to protest new agricultural laws that they say will devastate their livelihood. The protests have posed a major challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which says the laws are needed to modernize Indian farming.

Police had said the document Ravi shared on social media indicated that there was a “conspiracy” behind the violence in which one protester was killed and hundreds of police and demonstrators were injured.

But last week, a judge, while hearing Ravi’s bail plea, called the police accusations “conjecture” after her lawyer argued that the “toolkit” was a mere “resource document” that social activists often use for campaigning, and that it made no mention of violence nor incited any.

Ravi’s case drew widespread condemnation in India and overseas. Protests were held in multiple Indian cities for her release, with critics and opposition parties saying her case highlights a growing crackdown on dissent under Modi’s government.

Ravi’s arrest came days after the government ordered Twitter to block certain accounts and charged journalists with sedition.

The Associated Press

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