New Delhi: “Shit, Shit, Shit… our names are on the document. We can literally get UAPA against us. I am going to talk to lawyers.”
“I have spoken to lawyers.”
“We need to delete all our social media accounts. Let us not do anything for a while.”
These are some of the messages that Delhi Police claim to have accessed from the Telegram account of environment activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested from Bengaluru Sunday, police sources told ThePrint. The messages, the sources said, are part of the digital evidence they have against the activist.
Delhi Police have accused Ravi, 21, high court lawyer Nikita Jacob and one Shantanu Muluk of making edits on the controversial toolkit for farmers’ protest that was tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg earlier this month.
The toolkit — that Thunberg said was prepared by people on the ground — is the subject of a sedition FIR registered by Delhi Police on 4 February.
It is being investigated for its alleged role in the violence that erupted in Delhi on 26 January during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally. The investigation centres on a toolkit Thunberg tweeted on 2 February before deleting it to post an “updated” version.
The trio, Delhi Police said at a press conference Monday, played a key role in creating the document, with an intention to “spread disaffection and misinformation” against the government. Police also claim to have digital evidence to show it was Ravi who sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg via Telegram, asking her to promote it.
Separately, sources in Delhi Police said it was Ravi who asked Thunberg to delete the first version.
According to Delhi Police sources, the toolkit was created with the help of a “banned organisation — Sikhs for Justice” — known to be a Sikh separatist vehicle — and with the assistance of one Puneet, identified by them as a Canada-based woman working for Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), a Canadian organisation that has been under the lens in connection with the toolkit and the international campaign to highlight the farmers protest.
Delhi Police also alluded to the role of the PJF, which it describes as a pro-Khalistani organisation, and Puneet at the press conference.
Police say the toolkit was made by an email account created by Shantanu, identified as a Pune-based engineer who also works with Extinction Rebellion, an “international movement” working towards a host of social issues, along with Jacob and Ravi.
While Ravi, a founding member of the India chapter of Thunberg’s climate-change awareness movement Fridays for Future, has been arrested, police said Jacob and Shantanu are absconding. Non-bailable warrants have been issued against them by a Delhi court, police added.
Reached for comment, Ravi’s lawyer Abhinav Sikri said “we have no comments as of now”. However, activists who have worked with her dismissed the Delhi Police’s bid to link Fridays For Future with the Sikh separatist campaign.
Queries messaged to PJF founder Mo Dhaliwal on Twitter hadn’t elicited a response by the time of publishing this report.
Also Read: Why 21-yr-old climate activist associated with Greta Thunberg has been charged with sedition
‘Ravi sent toolkit to Thunberg’
Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Prem Nath said at Monday’s press conference that “one woman named Puneet, based in Canada, put Jacob, Ravi and others in touch with the pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation and through them created a toolkit titled Global Farmers Strike and Global Day of Action 26 January”.
“Disha Ravi, who is associated with Fridays for Future, sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg on Telegram and coaxed her to act on it. The main aim of the toolkit was to create misinformation and disaffection against the government,” he added.
“The toolkit sought to artificially amplify fake news through various tweets they created in form of a tweet bank and also sought public to participate in the action on 26 January, which took a violent turn,” he said.
According to police, as part of a “conspiracy”, a call was organised on 11 January through video-conferencing app Zoom by the PJF. The call, they said, had 50 participants, including Mo, who discussed the toolkit and “modalities of the global day of action—26 Jan”.
Based on this meeting, police added, Shantanu, Jacob and Ravi “collaborated towards preparing the draft of the toolkit”.
Police claimed Ravi also created a WhatsApp group to collaborate with Nikita Jacob, Shantanu and other members that she later deleted.
“In this process, they all collaborated with the pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against the Indian State,” Nath said.
One portion of the toolkit, police added, mentioned “action points, a digital strike and physical action on 26 January”. The second part, they said, mentioned tasks such as “disruption of India’s cultural heritage such as yoga and tea and targeting Indian embassies abroad in various capitals”.
“The time-bound action for the programme mentioned in the toolkit, when viewed in context of actual development in Delhi on 26 January, showed that the plan was executed on ground,” Nath said.
Sources in Delhi Police later said the WhatsApp group mentioned above was found after “we seized the phone of Nikita Jacob, which still had this group”.
“We have taken it on record as evidence,” a police source said. “If there was nothing suspicious about the conversation of that group, why did Disha hide it? We will also try to retrieve it from her device,” the source added.
‘No link between Fridays for Future & Khalistani movement’
Yuvan Aves, a volunteer at the Indian chapter of Fridays for Future (FFF), dismissed allegations that Ravi collaborated with the PJF to “spread disaffection against the government”.
“To link young (FFF) volunteers with separatists and Khalistanis is ridiculous,” Aves said. “There is absolutely no link between the FFF and the Khalistani movement.
“Many of our volunteers are schoolchildren who do beach clean-ups and tree plantation drives,” Aves added. “There are about a few thousand FFF volunteers in India. It is not a coordinated movement.”
Also Read: Modi govt’s heavy-handed counter to protests wrong. Disha Ravi’s frantic arrest unwise
An ‘incongruous name’
Speaking to ThePrint, police sought to draw attention to another name in the toolkit — Pieter Friedrich — who they said was named in the toolkit under the head “Who is to be followed”.
Friedrich, a freelance journalist, is a vocal Twitter user with nearly 29,000 followers who has authored a book called Saffron Fascists. According to sources, he has been on the radar of Indian agencies since 2006.
“The toolkit is a carefully drafted document. They planned on which hashtag to use, who to tag, who to follow, which hashtag is to be made to trend on a particular day,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Manishi Chandra said.
“In the toolkit, under the section of ‘who is to be followed’, you will find names of media houses, NGOs and fact-checkers and then there is one name that is incongruous — Pieter Friedrich,” he added.
“He has been on the radar of agencies since 2006 when he was seen in the company of one Bhajan Singh Bhinder alias Iqbal Chaudhary, a leading proponent of Kashmir-Khalistan desk,” the officer said.
“Friedrich also runs a lot of organisations with Bhinder. Why Pieter was made a resource person in this toolkit, whether it was Mo Dhaliwal who got him and what connection he has with Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu, is a matter of investigation,” Chandra added.
Police said the members who created the toolkit also engaged people with “good following” on social media to “promote their cause”.
Reached for comment, Friedrich said he has been targeted “because I have emerged as one of North America’s most relentless voices against the rising fascism of the Modi regime and, particularly, the RSS”.
“I had never heard of Poetic Justice Foundation until it was reported on in Indian media in connection with the toolkit. The Khalistan movement today appears to be entirely propped up by the Modi regime for purposes of creating a Frankenstein monster on which it can blame all ills,” he added. “It’s laughable that the entire world today — from a white Christian writer like me a Black Barbadian singer like Rihanna — are labeled as supporters of a mythical Sikh separatist state.”
He said he has co-authored two books with Bhajan Singh, “including one on how the origins of Sikhism are entwined with the anti-caste struggle”. “Had I ever seen Bhajan even hint at support for Khalistan, I would have run the other way,” he added.
Additional reporting by Rohini Swamy in Bengaluru
Also Read: ‘Murdering democracy’ vs ‘crime is a crime’ — opposition, BJP spar over Disha Ravi arrest
The point is not about preparing a toolkit or supporting farmers. Everyone has the right to dissent. The question is – What kind of climate activism is this which aims at denigrating India’s image and storming embassies? It seems to be a pattern. Mahatma Gandhi statue was vandalized in DC, California, London. The Indian embassy in London was a planned target not so long back. These cannot be mere coincidence. The networks need to be exposed.
I really don’t understand what a climate change activist was contributing to a toolkit that talks about storming Indian embassies and destroying India’s chai yoga image. If she hasn’t contributed those lines then did she atleast flag those as objectionable? Even if I want to believe her it is difficult because the intention behind the toolkit is definitely larger and systemic.
Sympathy for Disha Ravi, 21, high court lawyer Nikita Jacob and one Shantanu Muluk is justified if they got themselves tangled into this mess out of sheer stupidity.
Problem with young activists is that they often jump from cause to cause without conviction and in depth knowledge of their beliefs.
Under the UPA dispensation the activists were given a special status. Some of them were of outstanding intellect and passionately and honestly committed to their beliefs. Of course that group also had the jumping jacks of the JOLA type dabbling into every agitation. Any way that RAJASHRYA, opened up a new path for the glory hunters who end up tagging along with any thing and every thing with a possibility of getting exposure.
No harm in supporting anything so long as it has a logic, if that is disputed one then the courts are there to decide and in civilized society that decision has to be respected and accepted.
Do not know how a farmers’ agitation has a support from climate activists and where does the ‘pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation’ fit into it. Knowing fully well as claimed by Police”Shit, Shit, Shit… our names are on the document. We can literally get UAPA against us. I am going to talk to lawyers.” “I have spoken to lawyers.”
“We need to delete all our social media accounts. Let us not do anything for a while.”
Agree with you fully. I feel bad that these young people are in trouble now. But this is utter stupidity on their. This is what the PM was referring to when he was talking of “Andolanjivis!” They should have tried to understand the real issues of the farmers and then jumped into the fray. In fact, if they ahd done that they would not have got involved at all and avoided all this trouble for themselves.
Pieter Freidrich has been in the radar of Indian intelligence agencies for long and for good reasons. This issue requires professional and unbiased investigation. The Delhi Police must assign its best officers to the case and unearth the truth.
Anti Nations must be give 1000 times punishment than capital punishment.
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