Free Disha protests.

Free Disha protests.

Police claim activist Disha front for Khalistanis; judge wants link, not conjectures

Reality behind Toolkit sinister design to defame India, incite violence: Police

Agency Report | New Delhi/Bengaluru | 20 February, 2021 | 10:40 PM

The online "toolkit", cited by the Delhi police to accuse three persons of sedition over the past few days, was merely a "resource document" and did not "sow disaffection", eco-activist Disha Ravi told a Delhi court while moving her bail plea. She said as an activist, her cause was environment and agriculture, not Khalistan as accused. The Delhi police opposed the 22-year-old's petition saying the toolkit was, in fact, a gateway to another website aimed at defaming India and its army. Ravi, the only person arrested in the case, is closely connected to the Khalistan-backing organisation Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), the police claim. After listening to both sides, the court reserved its order for Tuesday, but not before hinting that at least some of the prosecution's claims were conjectures. The prosecution has claimed that PJF, which is not proscribed, had close ties to SFJ, concluding, in turn, that it makes Ravi an accomplice to alleged Khalistani activity.

The Delhi Police on Saturday told a city court that the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy was a sinister design to defame India and trigger violence, for which Poetic Justice Foundation and banned organisation Sikhs For Justice used climate activist Disha Ravi.

“Poetic Justice Foundation and Sikhs For Justice in order to hide their involvement, used Disha Ravi as a front to carry out nefarious activity,” Additional Solicitor General SV Raju told the court and said that these organisations are connected to the Khalistani movement.

Ravi, who faces charges of conspiracy and sedition in the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy case related to the farmers’ agitation, was arrested from Bengaluru on February 13.

The contentions were made during the three-hour-long hearing on the bail petition of Ravi. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana has reserved the order for February 23.

“The reality behind the Toolkit is a sinister design to not only defame India but cause violence. This is only a facade and taking advantage of farmer agitation and run an agenda,” Raju told the court.

He said that Ravi, along with co-accused Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk wanted to make the farmers agitation international.

“They were in constant touch with PJF owner MO Dhaliwal and Anita Lal and also SFJ. They have same motive and remain in touch with each other. The purpose was to facilitate the Khalistani movement.”

ASG Raju said that Disha Ravi was in touch with them and was preparing and sharing the toolkit with those advocating Khalistan.

Advocate Sidharth Agrawal, representing the accused, told the court that there is no evidence to show that ‘Toolkit’ is responsible for the violence.

“Nobody arrested in connection with Red Fort violence has said that he was inspired by Toolkit,” Defence tells court.

Advocate Siddhartha further told the court that there is no evidence to link Ravi with Sikhs For Justice, a banned organisation.

The 21-year-old activist was sent to three days judicial custody on Friday, after the police told the court that they will seek her custody later to confront her with co-accused Shantanu Mukul, who will join the probe on February 22.

The judge then asked her if she had attended a Zoom call, which, as the police have alleged, was one of the sessions where the January 26 violence conspiracy was hatched. “If there is violence or instigation of violence then it’s an offence, but what’s the allegation against me? That I was part of a Zoom call? That I spoke during the Zoom call?” her counsel asked.
On January 11, the police had earlier alleged, a Zoom call was made between PJF founder MO Dhaliwal and Ms Ravi. Several such meetings followed in the run up to the Republic Day ruckus, the court was told.

Judge Dharmendra Rana, however, asked how anyone could impute wrong motives to a person over merely meeting someone with bad credentials. The police answered, “Everyone knows MO Dhaliwal. Why would you meet with such a person.” The court responded: “No. I don’t know who is MO Dhaliwal.”

The judge also sought evidence to connect Ravi to the January 26 violence. To which the police responded saying, “In a conspiracy, not everyone will have the same role. Somebody…influenced by the toolkit may be instigated and indulge in violence.”

Not satisfied, the court asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the police, to show the contents of the toolkit that prove a direct link. The “toolkit appeared innocuous,” Raju said, only to add, “There was more behind it”. To the argument that the external link provided in it was that of a website that spoke of genocide, the judge said: “Is there any direct link or we have to make conjectures here?”

Agarwal, meanwhile, asserted that the toolkit had nothing to “sow disaffection to the country”. Even the reading of Raju showed the same, he said.

The police, meanwhile, also argued that bail can be denied if the accused indulges in tampering of evidences. “Constantly she has been refusing to cooperate with the probe. Her devices have been sent to the FSL experts. Preliminary findings show contents have been deleted. Investigation is still at preliminary stage…That’s destruction of evidences,” the prosecution argued.

While the police maintained that the conspiracy could be seen only based on circumstantial evidences, Judge Rana asked, “Should I presume that there is no direct link now?”

When the police counsel could still not come up with an answer, he said, “Unless I satisfy my conscience, I don’t move ahead.”

The Delhi Police have contended that the Google document tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to back the farmers’ protest and then deleted, was created by Ravi and two other activists — Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk.

A ‘toolkit’ is a series of guidelines suggesting how a particular aim can be achieved. Toolkits chart out plans of action explaining topics at hand and offers suggestions that could be followed to achieve particular goals.

On February 14, the Delhi Police took to microblogging website Twitter to elaborate on the case. It wrote, “Disha Ravi, arrested by Delhi Police, is an Editor of the Toolkit Google Doc and key conspirator in document’s formulation and dissemination.”

She started WhatsApp Group and collaborated to make the Toolkit document, the police said, adding that she worked closely with them to draft it.

“In this process, they all collaborated with pro Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against the Indian State. She was the one who shared the Toolkit Doc with Greta Thunberg,” the police wrote on Twitter.

Later, she allegedly asked Thunberg to remove the main document after its incriminating details accidentally got into public domain, the police added.

“I am 22, from Karnataka. I have no connection with Khalistan movement, whatsoever,” Ms Ravi argued before Justice Dharmendra Rana. “There is no single chat or conversation between me and the (banned organisation) Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) produced by the Delhi police.”

A Delhi Court will on February 23 pronounce its order in the bail application filed by climate activist Disha Ravi in the ‘Toolkit’ case.

A group of prominent people, including artists, environmental and social activists held a virtual press conference, saying climate activist Disha Ravi must be released immediately. They also demanded withdrawal of all charges made against her.

The virtual press conference was jointly organised by National Alliance of People’s Movements, Coalition for Environmental Justice in India and People’s Union for Civil Liberties here.

The activists also said warrants against Shantanu Muluk and Nikita Jacob must be dropped.

Magsaysay Award winner and human rights activist Sandeep Pandey described that unable and unwilling to engage with the protesting farmers, the Union Government is busy trying to use the ‘Khalistani brush’ to tarnish their movement and those who support them.

“This government has gone to the extent that including the current youth environmental activists. This is shameful over-reach and characteristic of a bully state,” he slammed.

He added that the disturbingly frequent use of undemocratic laws like The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) or the ease with which charges of colonial era sedition charges are being levelled, is far higher and more frequently employed than even during colonial times.

“These have been used against many senior activists, professionals, educators, journalists and others; now they are being used against very young people,” Pandey lamented.

A Jaipur-based social activist, thinker and People’s Union for Civil Liberties member Kavita Srivatsava asserted that no further action should be taken against youth who have been supporting the farmers’ movement and social and environmental justice causes.

“Disha Ravi’s arrest is the government’s intent to criminalise dissent,” she added.

Noted environmentalist, Ashish Kothari said that these actions are aimed at diverting public attention from the most pressing needs of the nation, such as the farmers’ crisis, the ecological collapse, and the economic insecurity of hundreds of millions of people, all intensified by the ongoing selling out of natural resources to corporate interests.

“We should not see ongoing farmers strike and attack on the environment as two separate issues. They are inherently interlinked. So anyone who supports farmers or environment causes are directly or indirectly supporting each other” he said. (IANS)