Rajani Santosh, a co-activist of Disha Ravi, rues the fact that instead of highlighting the illegal procedure of Ravi’s arrest, the media was busy vilifying a 22-year-old climate activist
Since August 2019, I have been volunteering for several environmental groups for research and advocacy on local environmental issues like waste management, illegal tree felling, water wastage and most recently the farm unrest. Together, we have been trying to declutter, simplify local environmental-friendly practices and along our journey, we are constantly educating ourselves too.
Disha Ravi has been part of the same group of conscientious citizens in Bengaluru who are trying to make a change. Be it Central farm laws, anti-coal campaigns or local climate issues, Disha has been at the forefront of mobilizing young people for petitioning, demonstrating, forming human chains in an orderly and peaceful way. She is also a vocal advocate for animal rights and a vegan too. Law-abiding citizens of her generation who live simple lives are a rare breed.
Therefore, as a co-activist, the news of her arrest (in the Toolkit Case) came as a huge shock. It was chilling to see her being vilified in the media. The Centre’s manipulations and Karnataka govt’s involvement in her arrest should have been highlighted as an attack on Indian federal structure! But instead of speaking about the manner in which a 22-year-old was picked up by the police of another state, reporters were digging out details about a protest toolkit.
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Disha and her band of activists in the Fridays For Future (Bengaluru chapter) have been on ground since late 2018 (when she was in college). Learning the science, economics and politics behind the climate crisis, she saw a role model in Greta Thunberg. She voiced her opinion before the powerful and spoke in a language that motivated youth to speak for themselves in other countries.
They organised walks, plogs, conferences, panel discussions since 2019 on a range of social issues. You can see from the timelines on their social media accounts how these students consulted senior environmentalists like Dr Yellappa Reddy, Dr Harini Nagendra, Leo (ESG) and other experts.
I do not think the arrest has dampened the spirit at all. It will only make us work closely with each other. Her arrest has brought one fact in focus: that environmental activists have a stake in farm laws because these laws push for farmland consolidation which will lead to loss of biodiversity-based agri-models of our country.
The bail order for Disha Ravi was a relief. However, what happened was wrong and she will get complete freedom only when the case against her is legally quashed. We are in a climate emergency and very few voices are speaking up. Sadly, environmental cases get attention only when there is loss of many human lives due to unnatural floods, glacial bursts or similar man-made disaster. Soon, the issue gets buried under news TRPs and we move to the next calamity.
For now, Disha is lying low and speaking to very few of us, and I think that is best for her now. But I am in touch with her lawyers and we shall take this case to its logical, legal conclusion.