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Opposition leaders seek release; BJP heads defend Disha Ravi’s arrest

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BENGALURU: DMK president MK Stalin, former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah and other southern leaders joined Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in voicing their protest at the arrest of young climate activist Disha Ravi.

Historian Ramachandra Guha joined groups of citizens who staged a protest demonstration in Bengaluru demanding Ravi’s release.

Delhi Police had picked up Ravi from her Bengaluru home on Saturday on charges of sharing a “toolkit” with Sweden-based activist Greta Thunberg and collaborating with pro-Khalistan Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against India.

Siddaramaiah said the arrest has exposed the cracks in the Indian democracy under Narendra Modi, and called the arrest an unprecedented attack on democracy. “Supporting our farmers is not a crime. How can the act of supporting farmers be charged under sedition?” the opposition leader tweeted.

Stalin said he was shocked by the activist’s arrest on “flimsy” charges. “Silencing critics of the government through authoritarian means is not the rule of law. I urge the BJP government to desist from taking such punitive action and instead listen to the voices of dissent from young persons,” he said.

A teacher at Bengaluru’s Mount Carmel College remembered Ravi as a bright student who was active in extracurricular activities. Ravi did her BBA and passed out of college in 2018. Guha, in a tweet, called Disha a passionate environmentalist. Ravi’s family home, on Bengaluru’s outskirts, was locked and her family members were not reachable for a comment.

None of the campaigns she cared for had anything to do with violence, said Ishan, who has known Ravi through climate campaigns in Bengaluru. “She was actively involved in youth climate activities creating awareness. What has been transpiring over the last few days with increasing insinuations of her having connections with terror organisations is quite shocking and it does not reflect in any way who she is,” he said.

BJP national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh, however, asked whether being a young environment activist was justification for “becoming a part of breaking India forces?”.

Responding to the charges levelled by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms that the Delhi Police did not follow the arrest procedures while taking Ravi into custody, Karnataka home minister Basavaraj Bommai said there was no breach of protocol. He declined to comment further saying the matter was before a Delhi court.

The ruling BJP, however, defended the arrest. Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi hit back at Siddaramaiah’s criticism saying nothing more could be expected from a person who withdrew the police cases filed against “anti-national, anti-social PFI, SDPI”. Bengaluru central MP PC Mohan said a crime was a crime and that the law will take its course.

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