Indian court extends detention of activist Ravi over agricultural protest

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Indian court extends detention of activist Ravi over agricultural protest

By Suchitra Mohanty and Anushree Fadnavis

NEW DELHI, February 19 (Reuters) – A Delhi court on Friday accepted a police request to extend the detention of climate activist Disha Ravi, whom they accuse of sedition for her alleged role in creating a ” online toolkit to help farmers protesting reforms.

Ravi, 22, who is part of an organization founded by Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, appeared in court after her arrest in Bangalore last weekend in a case that raised concerns about the crackdown of dissent.

Police allege Ravi was involved in creating and sharing an online document containing advice to protesters. Police say the document fueled the violence that took place on Indian Republic Day last month when farmers stormed the famous Red Fort in Delhi’s old quarter.

Police have registered a case of sedition against Ravi, which carries a life sentence.

“This court returns the accused, Disha Ravi, to judicial detention for three days,” Judge Akash Jain said.

Ravi did not speak herself but denied the charges against her through her lawyer Siddarth Agarwal, arguing in court that the police had no evidence to support them.

“There is nothing against me, please consider this,” Agarwal told the court on his behalf.

Senior lawyers and lawmakers have criticized the sedition case, disputing police allegations that the document in question incites violence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has tried to get farmers to quit their months-long protests on the outskirts of Delhi against three new laws aimed at deregulating the large and outdated agricultural commodity market.

He proposed to put the laws on hold and water down some provisions.

But farmers want Modi to completely repeal the laws and provide legal backing for minimum price support for their produce, and their long campaign in the bitter cold of Delhi has drawn a growing group of supporters at home and abroad.

Thunberg also briefly tweeted a link to the document police are investigating before removing it. She did not comment on the detention of Ravi, one of the leaders of her Fridays for Future (FFF) movement.

(Written by Sanjeev Miglani edited by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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