19 February 2021

We demand that Disha Ravi be immediately and unconditionally released, and that the government stop victimizing environmental activists.

We are shocked by the arrest by the Delhi Police of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old member of the environmental organization Fridays for Future, on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy while raising support for the ongoing farmers’ protests. Non-bailable warrants have been issued against two others. Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk. To mobilize support for the farmers’ protests is their basic political and constitutional right. In addition, the manner in which Disha Ravi was arrested and taken to Delhi violates detention norms laid down by the Supreme Court, and reflects disregard for basic democratic rights. 

Attempts by the central government to cast youth-led climate organizations, or their members, as a threat to national security defies sanity. These organizations have been raising issues regarding the climate and other environmental crises, which in fact constitute the gravest threat to the security of the people of this country. The government’s own reportAssessment of Climate Change Over the Indian Region by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, details many grave changes already taking place, such as a weakening monsoon, accelerating sea level rise, and more frequent droughts. It warns of longer and more intense heat waves, more extreme rainfall events, and that a large part of the Indus and Ganga river basins will become unliveable by the end of this century if global greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced urgently.

The government has weakened environmental protection by diluting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) measures, potentially damaging carbon sinks, the forests on which millions depend. To support forest-dependent and agrarian communities in their struggles is simply an extension of the movements for environmental justice. Youth-led movements have campaigned against dilutions of the EIA, have spoken out against the destruction of ecosystems, and the expansion of coal use. This is the context in which they are now being targeted.

Our young activists have stood up for issues that will affect millions of today’s youth in the decades to come. They must be celebrated for the courage of their convictions and for speaking truth to power, not persecuted, intimidated, and criminalized. Expressing support for the farmers’ struggle or any other social and environmental justice issue, or for peaceful protests seeking change, is not just a fundamental right but a fundamental duty of a conscientious citizenry. Yet, these activists ‒ and numerous others in recent months ‒ have been targeted for exercising those very rights.

This is the most serious attack on the climate movement in this country. It has led to a lot of fear and anxiety among youth activists, students, and other young people. As a group of teachers, writers, and researchers from across the country engaged with the climate crises and other environmental challenges, we are not just proud of our conscientious youth, we draw inspiration from them. We unequivocally stand by them in their demand for more urgent climate and environmental action, and a safer, more just, and sustainable future. We forcefully condemn the Indian government’s unlawful and misguided attempts to criminalize the youth and environmental activists of the country.

We demand:

1. the immediate release of Disha Ravi. 

2. that all charges be immediately dropped against Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob, and Shantanu Muluk. 

3. an unconditional apology by the Indian government to these young activists for the trauma to which they have been subjected.

4. that the government stop criminalizing dissent of all kinds, including environmental struggles and groups, and instead dialogue with them about the future of this country.

TACC is a non-funded, non-party collective of college and university teachers, based in and around Delhi.