India court extends activist Disha Ravi's detention over farm protest

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) – A Delhi court granted a police request on Friday (Feb 19) to extend the detention of climate activist Disha Ravi who they accuse of sedition for her alleged role in the creation of an online “toolkit” intended to help farmers protesting reforms.

The 22-year-old Ravi, who is part of an organisation founded by Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, appeared in court following her arrest in Bengaluru last weekend in a case that has raised concerns about a crackdown on dissent.

Police allege that Ravi was involved in creating and sharing an online document containing advice for protesters. Police say this document stoked the violence that took place on India’s Republic Day last month when farmers stormed the famous Red Fort in the old quarter of Delhi.

Late on Friday, Ms Thunberg sent out two tweets with a hashtag supporting Disha.

“Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy. #StandWithDishaRavi,” Ms Thunberg said in one of her tweets.

Police have registered a case of sedition against Ravi, which carries a life term.

“This court remands the accused, Disha Ravi, to judicial custody for three days,” judge Akash Jain said.

Ravi did not speak herself but denied the accusations against her through her lawyer Siddarth Agarwal, arguing in court that police had no evidence to back them up.

“There is nothing against me, please consider this,” Mr Agarwal told the court on her behalf.

Senior lawyers and lawmakers have criticised the sedition case, disputing the allegation by police that the document in question incited violence.

On Saturday, a court in Delhi is scheduled to hear Ravi’s bail application.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been trying to get farmers to back down from their months-long protest on the outskirts of Delhi against three new laws to deregulate the vast and antiquated farm produce market.

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It has offered to hold the laws in abeyance and water down some the provisions.

But the farmers want Mr Modi to repeal the laws altogether and provide legal backing for minimum price support for their produce.

Ms Thunberg also briefly tweeted a link to the document that police are investigating before withdrawing it.

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