Indian authorities on Monday launched a manhunt to track down Nikita Jacob, an activist accused of sharing an online ‘toolkit’ specifying guidelines to support the protesting farmers.
The Delhi Police Cyber Cell, which is investigating what it says is an “international conspiracy” to defame India, has said Jacob was absconding after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against her for allegedly sharing and editing the “online toolkit”.
The online toolkit was thrown into global spotlight after teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg shared it on Twitter earlier this month, as she expressed her solidarity with protesting Indian farmers who have been demanding the repealing of three new federal farm laws.
While Thunberg’s tweet was later deleted and an updated one posted subsequently, the Delhi Police nevertheless launched a probe and booked unnamed persons for sedition (Section 124A), wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot (section 153), promoting enmity between different groups (section 153A) and criminal conspiracy (section 120B).
Meanwhile, Nikita Jacob has moved the Bombay High Court for transit anticipatory bail, and her appeal will be listed on Tuesday before Justice P. D. Naik. The police manhunt to arrest Jacob comes barely a day after the court remanded another climate activist, Disha Ravi, to five days of police custody for allegedly editing and sharing the “online toolkit”. Ravi was arrested by a Delhi Police Cyber Cell team in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.
Ravi’s arrest has sparked a massive political controversy, with India’s major opposition parties viewing the decision as another attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to stifle criticism related to the new farm laws.
Among those who have voiced solidarity with Ravi are Rahul Gandhi, a key opposition figure from India’s main opposition Congress Party, Delhi state chief Arvind Kejriwal from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as well leaders from other political outfits, including Shiv Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
बोल कि लब आज़ाद हैं तेरे— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 15, 2021
बोल कि सच ज़िंदा है अब तक!
वो डरे हैं, देश नहीं!
India won’t be silenced. pic.twitter.com/jOXWdXLUzY
Arrest of 21 yr old Disha Ravi is an unprecedented attack on Democracy. Supporting our farmers is not a crime.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 15, 2021
Ravi’s arrest has also attracted criticism from overseas, with US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris as well as parliamentarians from the United Kingdom expressing concerns over the 21-year-old’s arrest.
Disha Ravi is 21 yrs— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) February 14, 2021
A climate activist from India she campaigns for clean air, clean water and a liveable planet
She is now facing state sanctioned violence for peacefully supporting farmers
Silence is not an option we must all condemn this act of suppression#FarmersProtest
In recent weeks, New Delhi has been unsparing in its criticism of foreign celebrities and politicians commenting on the ongoing farmer protests, with the foreign affairs ministry earlier this month accusing them of “mobilising international support” against India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also this month warned the Indian public of being careful of “foreign destructive ideology”, in a speech delivered in Parliament to defend the new farm laws.