Who is Disha Ravi, India’s Greta Thunberg, arrested for defying the government

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Activist Disha Ravi Image: Archive – Reproduction

New Delhi police arrested on Sunday (14) the young 22-year-old Disha Ravi, appointed as the leader of the Indian arm of the “Fridays For Future” movement, conceived by Swedish Greta Thunberg. Police have not released where the activist is being held. She is expected to face a court hearing in the capital this week.

Since Sunday, Disha Ravi’s face has traveled the world and her arrest has outraged supporters of the environmental cause and part of public opinion in India. According to the New Delhi police, the young woman is one of those responsible for developing and publicizing a communication campaign that encouraged the movement of farmers in the country. Peasants have been protesting since December against agricultural laws imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government about six months ago. The authorities accuse Ravi and other militants of “promoting discord against the state”.

The activist would have created a group in the Whatsapp to discuss communication strategies for farmers’ protests. New Delhi police say she is responsible for having sent Greta Thunberg a guide to instruct workers to organize for the acts the Swede posted on Twitter, angering the Indian government. The authorities also link Ravi to the separatist movement “Poetic Justice Foundation “, which defends the Sikh minority.

Finance career set aside

The Indian graduated in 2018 in Business Administration at Mount Carmel University in Bengal, in eastern India. At the beginning of her academic training, the young woman had the objective of pursuing a career in finance, but given the involvement with the environmental cause, she seems to have left aside the initial plans.

In her Twitter profile, Ravi describes herself as “an activist for the youth movement against climate change” and “founder of ‘Fridays For Future ‘ India “. The country’s media point out that, since 2019, she has been the leader of this arm of the international movement created by Greta Thunberg to denounce the inaction of the government on the issue.

The young woman coordinated several campaigns against climate change in India. He also organized protests in the Bengal region and wrote to several international media about the impact of rising global temperatures on biodiversity.

According to the information website Hindustan Times, Ravi decided to get involved with the cause in India on behalf of her grandparents, who are farmers and, according to her, suffer from the consequences of climate change. “At that time, I did not know that they were victims of climate change because education on this issue is non-existent where I come from. It was only when I started researching about it that I discovered this problem,” said the young woman in 2020.

In an interview last year with author and professor Gayle Kimball, who is writing a book about Generation Z of environmental activist girls, Ravi said that protesting is part of Indian culture.

“In India, demonstrations are part of our lives as our freedom was obtained thanks to peaceful protests. There are many acts in favor of humanitarian and religious causes in Indian society. Social networks are contributing to this today,” he said.

It was in this way, moreover, that the activist says she joined the movement “Fridays For Future“. She said she started to participate in the mobilization she now leads in India after meeting women involved in environmental campaigns on the web.

“All of our actions are organized on the internet – Instagram and other social networks. We met through mutual friends and in this way we met. We are mostly women and we had never met before. It all started in Bengal, but later it evolved simultaneously in Mumbai and New Delhi. We didn’t want the movement to be limited to just one city, “said the young woman to Professor Kimball.

Ravi is part of ecofeminist networks and supports initiatives that combat violence against women. Vegan, the activist also works in the area of ​​communication with customers at the company GoodMylk, which makes vegetable-based products accessible to the population.

Controversial land reform

Since December, Indian farmers have called for the repeal of the land reform approved by the country’s parliament about six months ago. The new laws impose further liberalization of the agricultural sector and are seen as beneficial only for big businessmen and farmers, for the fear of small farmers.

On 26 and 27 January, the movement was reinforced by thousands of farmers who arrived in New Delhi for a huge protest. The capital was blocked by barricades and tractors and a protester died in the confrontation with the police.

The Indian government accuses environmentalists of encouraging demonstrators to invade the capital’s streets. Ravi’s profile caught the attention of the authorities after Greta Thunberg released a document on her Twitter that the police say was authored by the Indian militant and said to be related to the incidents of violence in New Delhi.

Anjana, a friend of Ravi’s, is running a campaign to free the young activist. “She needs a strong voice to get justice,” she tweeted, along with the hashtag #ReleaseDishaRavi (free Disha Ravi).

Several militants and former Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh condemned Ravi’s arrest. India’s Environmental Justice Coalition called the young woman’s arrest “sinister”. About 80 personalities in the country signed a petition denouncing the police action as an “extrajudicial kidnapping”.

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