21-Year-Old Indian Climate Activist Jailed Over Protest “Toolkit” Shared By Greta Thunberg

A Delhi court sent 21-year-old activist Disha Ravi to jail for three days for charges of sedition over a protest document. Ravi was arrested and detained for five days after Greta Thunberg shared the “toolkit” supporting the Indian farmers’ movement.

(left) 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi; (right) a photo of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. | Disha Ravi Facebook/Reuters
(left) 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi; (right) a photo of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. | Disha Ravi Facebook/Reuters

A young Indian climate activist was arrested on February 13 for working on a protest “toolkit” shared widely by Greta Thunberg, and has been sentenced to a further three days in jail by a Delhi court on Friday.

21-year-old Disha Ravi, reportedly known in her community as a friendly, law-abiding climate activist who plants trees and curbs pollution, has been detained for nearly a week as of Friday, after police conducted a raid on her home in Bengaluru, India. Police charged her for allegedly helping to create a protest document in support of the ongoing farmers’ protests in India, sparking widespread alarm among Indian citizens, opposition politicians, and pro-democracy advocates who view the charges as a huge threat to free speech.

The document Ravi is accused of working on includes advice for those wanting to support the protests, like campaign tips and hashtags to share online. It caught the attention of Delhi police when Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted it. Thunberg started a series of school strikes to bring attention to the climate crisis in 2018 that spread globally and became known as “Fridays for Future.” Ravi founded the Indian chapter. 

Officers have claimed that Ravi shared the “toolkit” with the Swedish teen directly to “spread disaffection with the Indian state,” according to multiple outlets. Police subsequently launched an investigation calling the toolkit part of an international “criminal conspiracy” that they believe was started by Sikh separatists — an unfounded claim that members of the government and Hindu nationalists have been using to try and discredit the ongoing farmers’ movement.

Thousands of people in India have protested Ravi’s arrest and continue to call for her release. Thunberg also tweeted that she stands in solidarity with Ravi:

The BBC reported that Ravi “broke down and told the judge she had merely edited two lines of the document.” The court ruled in favor of police keeping her in custody while they conduct an investigation.

Journalists, activists, and organizers have increasingly faced crackdowns from police and government authorities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who critics say emboldens Hindu nationalists. In 2020, Foreign Policy published a piece about “how Modi is using Hinduism to turn India into an autocracy.”

The farmers’ protests have been going on for months in India, and have spread to solidarity marches around the world. Recently, Thunberg as well as high-profile figures like Padma Lakshmi and Rihanna, have called attention to the economic plight of Indian agricultural workers, who make up around 41% of the country’s economy.

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