Jaspreet Oberoi: Liberal Media Voices Speak Up For Disha Ravi While Refusing To Stand Up For Farmers

In contrast to Disha’s arrest, none of these ‘liberal’ media influencers have stood up and spoken for the hundreds of Sikh protestors and farmers arrested by the same Delhi police

Jaspreet Oberoi
February 17, 2021 | 3.5 min. read

She is a 22-year-old Bangalorean, lives with her mother, loves animals, was a bright student, graduated in business administration, enjoys Bollywood, watches Netflix, is a Harry Potter fan, posts cute pictures of her kitten and her dog, and is a vegan.

The person I am describing is Disha Ravi. She was bafflingly arrested last weekend by the Delhi Police for editing a document intended to assist the farmers’ protest against hastily passed agriculture reform laws.

The police say she was a "key conspirator" in the formulation and dissemination" of the document. The so-called "toolkit", which included treacherous directions like what hashtags to use, was shared by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg via Twitter.

The well-read, well-spoken, and well-heard sections of Indian society seem to be speaking up for her in unison, and rightly so.

In essence, there are three distinct groups that are currently vocal about her arrest. 

The first one comprises celebrities like Swara Bhasker, Richa Chadha, Taapsee Pannu, and Sushant Singh, who always and unconditionally speak up for the oppressed, irrespective of the victim in question. 

The second one is the political figures belonging to the opposition parties. Amongst them, the Aam Aadmi Party on Monday demanded her immediate release, calling the arrest an “extrajudicial abduction”. Dozens of Congress leaders asked for Disha’s release, with Priyanka Gandhi tweeting, “Those who carry guns are now afraid of an unarmed girl, now that unarmed girl is emanating rays of courage.” Mamata Banerjee of TMC from the poll-bound West Bengal expressed her anguish and stated, "Arresting anybody who is protesting against government policies is unacceptable. The BJP should first take action against its own IT Cell members who are spreading fake news.” And prominent leaders from the Left, JMM and other non-BJP parties expressed their condemnation in clear and crisp words.

The third distinct group in Disha’s support is of the senior ‘liberal’ and urban voices of Indian media.

Barkha Dutt has tweeted repeatedly calling for her release along with running multiple stories and panel debates.

Shekhar Gupta, famous and infamous for his 50-word editorials, wrote a scathing one against the Modi government for arresting an innocent protestor.

Another celebrated ‘liberal’, Vir Sanghvi mocked the Modi government and the Indian courts, indicating that the arrest of Disha is a joke on the establishment.

In contrast to Disha’s arrest, none of these ‘liberal’ influencers have stood up and spoken for the hundreds of Sikh protestors and farmers arrested by the same Delhi police in relation to the same farmers' protest. In contrast, all three of them are guilty of playing the ‘balancing’ game, i.e. supporting the farmers’ protest but time and again pandering to the ‘nationalist’ voter base of PM Modi. 

One of the easiest ways to please this government is by amplifying its Khalistani-bogey. At the beginning of these protests, when the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau spoke in favor of the farmers, Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt were one of the first ones to accuse Trudeau of pandering to his Sikh voter base in Canada. They both enabled the creation of an anti-Sikh narrative and the practice of labeling Sikh diplomacy as Khalistani interference in Indian affairs. 

By doing this so unapologetically and overtly, they provided the needed fodder to Modi supporters to label every Sikh protestor as an anti-nationalist terrorist. In fact, Sanghvi has a history of repeatedly being irked by Canadian Sikhs, and in the past he has gone to the extent of shaming Trudeau for wishing the Sikhs ‘Happy Vaisakhi’, the most revered festival of the Khalsa.

Shekhar Gupta went even one step ahead of these two. While defending Disha, he has concocted a whole new story in his lalaland about ‘how well-meaning activists might have unwittingly got caught up with international farmer protest activism infiltrated by Sikh separatist individuals and organizations.’ Also, he has called Modi’s current confrontation with Sikh farmers a “Thatcher moment”, suggesting that Modi should not budge from his reformist policies. After all, what can 2% of the Sikh population do to Modi? After all of this, should anyone expect any empathy from him towards the arrested Sikhs?

Indian liberal media has a huge urban bias and selective approach to calling out oppression, often enabling it when it comes to the Sikhs of Punjab. For example, no matter what happens to Dalit and labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur, she will never be the darling of the Barkhas, the Sanghvis and the Gupta jis.


Jaspreet Oberoi was born and raised in Patiala, Punjab, and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a columnist focused on socio-political issues concerning India and Canada. You can find him on Twitter at @ijasoberoi.

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