Indian local weather activist granted bail over farmer protests

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NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian courtroom on Tuesday granted a 22-year-old local weather activist bail, 10 days after she was detained on sedition expenses for her alleged position within the creation of a web-based doc meant to assist amplify farmer protests.

Disha Ravi is a part of the Indian wing of Fridays for Future, a world local weather change motion based by Swedish teenage local weather activist Greta Thunberg. She was arrested on Feb. 13 at her home within the southern metropolis of Bengaluru by New Delhi police.

The police, who had detained Ravi for questioning, mentioned she was a “key conspirator” within the “formulation and dissemination” of a protest doc, which the authorities are calling a “toolkit.” They said the document spread misinformation about the months-long protests by farmers and “tarnished the image of India.”

The document is part of a police investigation into how a group of farmers stormed New Delhi’s historic Red Fort complex on Jan. 26, in one of the few violent incidents in otherwise peaceful ongoing protests on the fringes of the capital.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped outside New Delhi for three months to protest new agricultural laws that they say will devastate their livelihoods. The protests have posed a major challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government, which says the laws are needed to modernize Indian farming.

In its decision, the court said the evidence produced by police against Ravi was scanty. It said a “call for violence” that police alleged was within the doc she shared was “conspicuously absent.”

“Sedition cannot be invoked to minister to wounded vanity of the government,” the court added. “Even our founding fathers accorded due respect to divergence of opinion by recognizing the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right.”

Police had said the document Ravi shared on social media indicated there was a “conspiracy” behind the violence in which one protester was killed and hundreds of police and demonstrators were injured.

She was booked under the sedition law, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutions under the colonial-era law are rare, but successive governments have used it to silence journalists, critics and dissents. Official data show that Modi’s government has used the law more than any other — up by nearly 30%.

Last week, a judge, while hearing Ravi’s bail plea, called the police accusations “conjecture” after her lawyer argued that the “toolkit” was a mere “resource document” that social activists usually use for campaigning, and that it made no point out of violence and didn’t incite any.

Ravi’s case drew widespread condemnation in India and abroad. Protests had been held in a number of Indian cities for her launch, with critics and opposition events saying her case highlights a rising crackdown on dissent underneath Modi’s authorities.

Ravi’s arrest got here days after the federal government ordered Twitter to dam sure accounts and charged journalists with sedition.

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