As the farmers’ protests grabbed international attention, a toolkit tweeted by 18-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg stirred up another controversy. This led to the arrest of Disha Ravi by the Delhi police, who described the toolkit as an ‘action plan’ resulting in the farmer-police clashes on January 26. Here’s how it all played out:
What was Greta Thunberg’s tweet about?
While sharing CNN’s article on the internet cut around New Delhi as protesting farmers clash with police, the 18-year old climate activist, on Feb 3, tweeted, “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”
She made another tweet in the same thread which was later deleted.
What did the deleted tweet contain?
On Feb 3, she made another tweet, “Here’s a toolkit if you want to help”. In the same tweet, she shared a document titled, “Global Farmers Strike - First Wave”. The tweet also mentioned two accounts - @FFFIndia and @XRebellionInd. The tweet, however, was deleted and a new tweet was made on Thursday claiming that the earlier document was outdated.
The Indian Express reported that the toolkit had five links, titled ‘More Information — Important Links’. According to the newspaper, one of the links led to a website run by “a volunteer group of individuals in Canada, the USA and the UK, who are passionate about social justice issues affecting the Indian agricultural community.” Another link was to a website which describes itself as “digital home to exploring geopolitics & ideas about freedom through data, writing, & technology”. IE notes, “The link provides leads to a page titled ‘Do I own products linked to Ambani?’, and mentions Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani”.
Which Twitter handles were mentioned in Greta’s tweet on the toolkit?
@FFFIndia is the Twitter handle belonging to ‘Fridays For Future India’.
Fridays for Future (FFF), also called ‘Youth Strike for Climate’, is an international movement of school students who skip Fridays classes to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to take action to prevent climate change. It has active local groups in 7,500 cities spanning across all the continents with more than 1 crore 40 lakh members.
The handle @XRebellionInd, on the other hand, belongs to Extinction Rebellion India. Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) is a global environmental movement with a total of 1145 groups in 75 countries which aims at nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
What did the new tweet contain?
On Feb 4, Greta tweeted, “Here’s an updated toolkit by people on the ground in India if you want to help. (They removed their previous document as it was outdated.)” She also shared the link to the updated toolkit.
What does the updated toolkit have?
The toolkit is a “document meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers’ protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis.”
The document clamours for the farmers’ profile in India citing the agriculture census of 2015-16. It calls attention to the farmer suicides in India, “lack of structural support” and “absence of solutions” to these “deeply-rooted problems”. It alleges that the new farm laws “were passed without any consultation with these farmers”. The document also the finger at the “large corporations and international institutions” which are not only “destroying the planet” but are also “taking over the lives of our country's most populous and important demographic”.
The toolkit guides about the URGENT ACTIONS and PRIOR ACTIONS required to support the farmers’ protests.
The URGENT ACTIONS call for tweeting in support of the Indian Farmers and using hashtags #FarmersProtest #StandWithFarmers, signing online petitions and calling/emailing the govt representatives and asking them to take action. It also appeals to “organise an on-ground action near the closest Indian Embassy, Media House or your local Govt. office on 13th/14th February 2021S and “share pictures on social media”.
The PRIOR ACTIONS press for participating in “Digital Strike: #AskIndiaWhy” and tagging “@PMOIndia, @nstomar, heads of state & others who ought to take note, like the IMF, WTO, FAO, World Bank” in the solidarity tweets. It also appeals to “read more about the issue” and “watch out for (or Join) the Farmers’ March / Parade (a first of its kind) into Delhi and back to the borders.”
What did the Delhi Police say?
The Delhi Police Cyber Crime Cell on Feb 4, filed an FIR on the creators of the “toolkit” accusing them of waging a “social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India”. Special CP (Crime Branch) Praveer Ranjan claimed, “The unfolding of events over the past few days, including the violence of 26th January, has revealed copycat execution of the ‘action plan’ detailed in the tool kit”.
He added that a preliminary enquiry into the matter revealed that the toolkit seems to have been created by the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF). He further alleged that PJF is a pro-Khalistani organisation. PJF, however, issued a statement stating that the organization “did not coordinate any protest activities occurring within India”. They further clarified, “We were not involved in directing or fomenting any protest activity of any sort in India”
Have such toolkits been used before, in other protests?
Such toolkits aim at the non-violent and peaceful global mobilization of people over a local cause, primarily, human rights violation. They aid the people to fight a dual battle - digital and on-ground. In the past, such toolkits have been made and circulated during many major protests across the world like the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, the Hong Kong protests of 2019, anti-CAA protests in India and several climate protests.
The toolkits alarm the protestors on the anticipated responses by the state like using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters. They also guide them on how to avoid such adverse situations. It was one such toolkit that advised the protesters in Hong Kong to wear masks and helmets to avoid being recognised and ways to put out tear gas shells.
During the anti-CAA protests, toolkits were shared on WhatsApp and social media, suggesting Twitter hashtags for the digital campaign, places to hold protests, and a guide on what to do and carry with you if you are detained by the police.
How was Disha Ravi linked to the toolkit?
The 21-year-old BBA student Disha Ravi has been accused of sharing the "toolkit" on social media. Ravi is a climate activist and one of the founding members of the Fridays For Future India.
According to the statement by Anil Mittal, Additional Public Relations Officer (Delhi Police), “She was one of the editors of the toolkit Google Doc and a key conspirator in the document's formulation and dissemination."
The question, however, remains in whether sharing a toolkit or guidelines for organizing a peaceful protest can be described as a seditious act.