Demonstrators on February 15 in the southern city of Bengaluru, including prominent historian Ramachandra Guha, held placards calling for Ravi's immediate release. In the western city of Mumbai, around 50 people also demanded that Ravi be freed. (Image: AP)
On February 3, Greta Thunberg tweeted in support of the farmers’ protest in India. Some time later, in a now-deleted tweet, the outspoken environmental activist posted a message with a link to a 'toolkit' that charted out a detailed plan of action, including protests outside embassies and social media campaigns through twitter.
That toolkit has now led to the arrest of activist Disha Ravi and issuance of non-bailable warrants against advocate Nikita Jacob and engineer Shantanu Muluk.
What is a toolkit?
In the most common terms, toolkit is a collection of specialised tools for a particular task. In context of the case, the toolkit was actually a digital document that included a detailed plan of action in support of the farmer's protest in India.
According to the Delhi Police, the 'toolkit' that was shared contained executable action points like creating a storm on Twitter using hashtags, standing in support with farmer's during protests and even physical action on January 26, which the police now link to the storming of Red Fort that same day.
Who created the toolkit?
Delhi Police claims that Ravi, along with a Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob and engineer Shantanu Muluk, were instrumental in the creation and circulation of the toolkit.
The police have registered a case of sedition, promoting enmity among communities and criminal conspiracy against the trio.
The police sought help from technology stalwarts like Google to trace the origin of the toolkit and the information contained within. This investigation eventually culminated in the arrest.
The special cell has also allegedly accessed chats between Disha Ravi and Greta Thunberg which apparently indicate that Disha had sent messages to the activist asking her to delete the tweet after it went live.
The police are also following leads on a section within the toolkit that has information on prominent names, media houses and NGOs. One of the names that has piqued their interest is US rights activist Pieter Friedrich. Delhi Police claims that Friedrich has been in the eye of various security outfits since 2006. He has also been linked with the K2 (Kashmir and Khalistan) wing of Pakistan's ISI.
In a statement to The Indian Express, Friedrich told the publication, "It’s laughable that the entire world today — from a white Christian writer like me, a Black Barbadian singer like Rihanna — are labelled as supporters of a mythical Sikh separatist state."
Police allege that Shantanu Muluk is the admin or the owner of the Google document that acted as a toolkit. Disha Ravi and Nikita Jacob were contributors and Ravi also shared the document with Thunberg on Telegram. Ravi also allegedly created a WhatsApp group to collaborate with other individuals but deleted it.
Police claim that the group attended a Zoom meeting on January 11 with pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation. There were 60 to 70 people in the meeting during which the Republic Day agitations were planned and the toolkit was created based on the bullet points from the meeting.
During her hearing at Patiala House, Ravi had said that she was expressing support to the farmers and denied that she created the toolkit, accepting only that she made two edits to the Google document.
Nikita Jacob has admitted to attending the Zoom meeting that had 60 to 70 people including Ravi and Muluk. Jacob has said that the toolkit was an informational pack and not meant to incite violence. She also said that there were, "no religious, political and financial motive or agenda for researching, discussing, editing and circulating toolkits for raising awareness."
Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk have requested protection from arrest in the courts while asking for a copy of the FIR (First Information Report) that was filed against them. They will be appearing in court today.
Delhi Police has also approached Zoom - the company whose software was used in the meeting - for information on the people that were present in the meeting.