Stop targeting India’s youth and environmental activists

India should count itself fortunate that conscientious young Indians are actively engaged with shaping their futures in the face of ecological catastrophes

Disha Ravi - FACEBOOK

News that Disha Ravi, a young woman and climate activist from Bengaluru, has been “picked up” – in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi Police – is highly disturbing both for what appears to be its illegal nature and for the over-reaction of the State that it represents.

Earlier [on 14 February], Disha was remanded in police custody for five days.

Young environmental activists, that the country should be proud of, are the latest victims of the Centre’s continuing efforts to delegitimise the ongoing farmers’ protest and the nationwide solidarity it has generated. Disha has reportedly been picked up for sharing an advocacy toolkit inviting solidarity with the farmers’ protests outside Delhi, which was shared by noted teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg.

Delhi Police’s actions are all the more sinister because the 21-year-old was taken to Delhi from Bengaluru with no disclosure about her whereabouts, not even to her parents, an action that can be termed extrajudicial abduction.

Delhi Police’s disregard for the rule of law is no secret. However, this action against an individual without following the due process of law and in clear violation of norms for arrests and detentions laid down by the Supreme Court, reflects absolute contempt for constitutional principles. The act of criminalising young people for extending solidarity to a struggle that resonates with their own aspirations for a healthy and secure future, strikes as a new low.

From the controversial draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2020 and in advancing laws that have drawn farmers’ across India to protest, the wider public is becoming increasingly aware of the union government’s tendency to put corporate interests over the wellbeing and future of the nation.

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It is also becoming increasingly clear that the current actions of the central government are diversionary tactics to distract people from real issues like the ever-rising cost of fuel and essential items, widespread unemployment and distress caused due to the lockdown without a plan, and the alarming state of the environment.

The grave state of India’s environment is evident from the recent Uttarakhand disasters and the floods across Western Ghats, the Ganges and Brahmaputra. In attending to this disastrous state of affairs, the government needs to reach out to India’s youth, not attack them.

India should count itself fortunate that conscientious young Indians are actively engaged with shaping their futures in the face of ecological catastrophes. Aware that government policies are hurting millions and harming the environment, these youngsters are exercising their constitutional rights and performing their fundamental duties by systematically holding the government accountable.

The government’s heavy-handedness are clearly focused on terrorising and traumatising these brave young people for speaking truth to power, and amounts to teaching them a lesson. A confident government must appreciate this resilience of our youth and hold open dialogues with them across the country. The current actions of the Indian government, instead, amount to gagging democracy itself.

As people involved in various campaigns for environmental and social justice and as citizens who believe it is our sacred responsibility to hold governments to account, we invite the government to treat the multiple serious ecological/climate, economic and social crises we now suffer from with the full attention they deserve.

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We call on the Indian government to take India’s youth into confidence, understand their concerns about their future, and work with them to safeguard our environment and strengthen institutions of democratic decision-making.

We demand that Disha Ravi be immediately released and assisted to get back home to resume her life.

Endorsed by:

  • Ashish Kothari, Kalpavrish, Pune
  • Nityanand Jayaraman, write and activist, Chennai
  • Leo F Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  • MJ Vijayan, New Delhi
  • Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of Peoples Movement (NAPM)
  • Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BJVJ)
  • Arundhati Dhuru
  • Sandeep Pandey
  • Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
  • Ramnarayan K, Munsiari, Uttarakhand
  • AC Michael, former member of Delhi Minorities Commission
  • Evita Das, PIPFPD and NAPM (Delhi)
  • Veena Padmanabhan, Gurgaon
  • Nisha Biswas
  • Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
  • Sahana Subramanian, Bangalore
  • Simar Kohla, founder, Lifetide – collective for water sustainability and justice
  • Anuradha Banerji, independent researcher, New Delhi.
  • Benny Kuruvilla, Researcher, New Delhi.
  • K Sajaya, independent journalist, social activist, Hyderabad
  • Amani Ponnaganti, researcher, Bengaluru
  • G Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
  • TM Krishna, singer, writer, activist
  • SP Udayakumaran, Pachai Thamizhagam Katchi, Green Tamil Nadu Party
  • Richa Singh, Sangtin kisan majdoor sangthan Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh
  • Joe Athialy, Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
  • Karthik G, Chennai Climate Action Group, Chennai
  • Adv Purnima Upadhyay, Amaravati, Maharashtra
  • Shalini Gera, advocate, High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur
  • Khalida Parveen, social activist, Hyderabad
  • Dr Bittu KR, associate professor of biology and psychology, Ashoka University
  • Narasimha Reddy Dhonti, Hyderabad
  • Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, West Bengal
  • Shramajivi Mahila Samity, West Bengal
  • Dr Akhileshwari Ramagoud, academic and independent journalist
  • M Yuvan, writer, naturalist, activist, Chennai Climate Action Group
  • Sushmita, Mumbai
  • Kamayani Bali Mahabal, feminist and human rights activist
  • Rinchin, writer, Chattisgarh
  • Punjab Womens Collective
  • Padmaja Shaw, retired professor, Osmania University
  • Karthik Ranganathan, engineer, Bangalore
  • Amit Kumar, Delhi Solidarity Group, New Delhi
  • Suma Josson, filmmaker
  • Siddharth KJ, independent researcher, Bengaluru
  • Nikita Naidu, Hyderabad
  • Arundhati Ghosh, cultural professional, Bangalore
  • Manoj Pande
  • Abhayraj Naik, visiting faculty, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
  • Mari Marcel Thekaekara, Gudalar, TN
  • Sujatha Padmanabhan, Chennai
  • Anil Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group
  • Ramanand Wangheilakpa, secretary, Chingmeirong Maning leikai Singlup and executive director, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
  • Chirag Dhara, Mumbai, India
  • Ashik Krishnan, co-creator, Travellers’ University
  • Sridhar Radhakrishnanm, environmentalist, Kerala Paristhithi Aikya Vedhi
  • Tara Murali, architect, Chennai
  • Akshay Chettri, Pune
  • Om Prakash Singh, Chennai
  • Jaya Iyer Delhi, bhumi ka
  • Rajeswari S Raina
  • Madhu Sarin, Chandigarh
  • Shalmali Guttal, Karnataka
  • Eric Pinto
  • Cassandra Nazareth, Mumbai
  • Neelam Ahluwalia, NCR resident
  • Ammu Abraham
  • Terence Fernandes
  • Aysha, Right to Food Campaign
  • Dr G Vijay, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad
  • Sheila Kapur
  • Manasi Pingle, Bangalore
  • Nishant Bangera, Thane, Muse Foundation
  • Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre, New Delhi
  • Yash Marwah, Let India Breathe
  • Amrita Bhattacharjee
  • Nachiket Udupa, Delhi
  • Smruthi Ananth, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru
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and many others

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