In India these days, every arrest on charges of sedition is followed by brutal character assassination on social media – never mind if the charges were real or fabricated. Over the past few years, we’ve heard the names of several activists, journalists, students and countless others who have earned the ire of the State and been slapped with sedition charges or under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
We go through the torrent of accompanying information with such charges, dig through the morsels of data, and come to a judgment – a judgment strong enough to dehumanise even the most human of us all.
Not today – today I wish to speak of my friend Disha Ravi as a human. Disha was arrested by the Delhi Police over the weekend in the Greta Thunberg “toolkit” case in relation to the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s agricultural laws. A member of Fridays For Future India, part of the global climate strike movement started by Greta Thunberg in 2018, she has been charged with sedition.
A wide-eyed girl all of 21, who comes from an agricultural family, Disha walks the talk – to say the least. She dedicates her life to a cause she believes in – climate rights activism. Disha spends every passing day dreaming of and working towards a sustainable future. She has an unmatched passion for animals and finds muse in all that is earthly. She fights battles everyday with her mental illness, only to be an unstoppable flag bearer of a recovering environment.
Disha has a deep understanding that those most affected by the climate crises are the marginalised. Her activism isn’t limited to climate change. If you are an active supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community or minority rights for Dalits, chances are you have seen her at your local protest rally. Disha makes everyone around her comfortable and for many us is the face of unadulterated altruism. She has never, even when faced with insurmountable grievances, lost hope. For if she did, who wouldn’t?
Disha is one of us, perhaps the best of us. And we have let her down.
While news channels and media houses weave a web of lies on supposed ‘terrorists’, I want you to know those who stand up – they do so for the voiceless. While it is easy to legitimise every decision taken by the government as a be all and end all, know today what kind irreversible damage such decisions are causing to the youth of our nation. And while it’s easy to believe there are organisations running schemes to spread hatred I want you to know that more often than not, those who rebel are mere fighters working towards a better tomorrow.
The insidious repercussion of such an arrest is to silence the very voices that are working to better society. With young activists being arrested over editing Google docs and the government forcing social media to remove pro-protest content through legal orders, for many of us, every thought of speaking up is followed by the fear of facing a similar plight.
It doesn’t stop there. Parents too, are worried at the consequences, leading us to face persecution at home. That is the vicious web our government weaves for our youth, putting out futures in peril. It proves time and again that democracy and its derivatives are very much an illusion.
How long do we watch as the authorities fail to uphold the rights to peaceful assembly? How long do we stay mum as they fail to repeal the archaic colonial-era sedition law? How long do we stay seated as they use innocent people as scapegoats by abusing constitutional loopholes? How long till our own critique is met with a possible life sentence?
The freedom to speak is sacred. Now, more than ever, we must speak. We must speak when basic civil liberties are violated in plain sight. We must be aware that while dissent is being criminalised, the act of staying silent is far more criminal.
Today, you read of my friend. Tomorrow, it may be one of yours. Just remember, that tomorrow isn’t far.
As someone wise once said, “When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Subhiksha A. is a student of Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.
Featured image: Disha Ravi. Photo: Twitter