Jaskaran Sandhu: Ask India How They Lost The Plot
Delhi Police bafflingly arresting Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old environmental activist, on sedition and conspiracy charges has proven one thing - India has lost the plot
February 16, 2021 | 3 min. read
Delhi Police bafflingly arresting Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old environmental activist, on sedition charges for her role in editing a basic Google Doc toolkit shared by Greta Thunberg that directed activists on how to show solidarity with India’s farmers has proven one thing:
India has absolutely lost the plot.
When, during a press conference, Delhi Police was asked to point towards where the toolkit incites violence, and therefore justifying the charges, they could not.
They then said that the group allegedly involved in the development of the toolkit was a banned organization. They are referring to the Poetic Justice Foundation, a Canadian-based non-profit, which is in fact not banned in India.
Finally, Delhi Police claimed that the toolkit was a project of Khalistanis. A classic bogeyman that the Indian state loves pulling out for every occasion as they have falsely made Khalistan synonymous with extremism.
However, even if this was true, and Disha Ravi was a Khalistani (she is not), that would not justify the charges as peacefully advocating for Khalistan in India is perfectly legal. Even the Indian Supreme Court has confirmed as much.
Again, this is all a moot point because Disha Ravi is not a Khalistani, and nowhere in the Google Doc does anyone advocate for Khalistan either. The toolkit is actually nothing more than a collection of relevant social media handles, hashtags, protesting tips, and talking points related to the farmers’ protest. Nothing new or not already in the public domain - no matter how insidious the Indian state tries to make it seem so.
By the way, this all completely disregards the fact that the BJP has an IT Cell that literally spreads unchecked and dangerous disinformation through toolkits on Google Docs.
Now, we always knew India had lost its way. They lost it a long time ago. However, what started off as a farmers’ protest, highlighting the undemocratic passing of haphazard reforms, has opened up India to international scrutiny across the board unlike we have ever seen before.
In the past India got away with a lot under the guise of being the “world’s largest democracy”, as well as being the home for cool things like cha and yoga.
International media and governments always gave India the benefit of the doubt when it would criminalize dissent, treat its minorities as second-class citizens, and continue its spiral towards autocratic Hindu nationalism.
That leniency is now finally over. You can thank a farmer.
The Indian state can not help itself. It can not help itself from reacting to any dissent in the way it always has done. Hamfisted and all. They thought it would work now as it has in the past.
Well, it has not.
A lot has been exposed over the last few months in response to the farmers’ protest, and no one is to blame but India itself.
The police brutality, the digging up of highways, the shutting down of the internet, the arbitrarily detaining of journalists, the hired goons, the BJP IT Cell attacking Rihanna, the calls for “eradication”, the complete disregard for the rule of law, and the slapping everyone with sedition and conspiracy charges for as much as sneezing in the wrong direction is all Modi’s doing.
This has opened the eyes of decision-makers in the west that all the old bogeymen the Indian government held up to excuse their actions were never as real as India claimed them to be. Again, we always knew this, but that is not the point. These realities have now gone mainstream.
For everyone paying attention now, which is a lot of people, it all makes sense.
It makes sense why Amnesty International was kicked out of India. It makes sense why Reporters Without Borders ranks India’s free press roughly between Palestine and Russia. It makes sense why Human Rights Watch continues to ring the alarm bells on India’s collapsing democracy. It makes sense why the Indian government tries to undermine minorities and human rights advocates abroad.
It all makes sense.
Now, let’s free Disha Ravi, Nodeep Kaur, and the countless others wrongfully arrested and detained by the Indian state over the course of what has been one of the largest protests in human history.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Senior Consultant at the public affairs agency Crestview Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
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