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Indian scholars have launched a petition to condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old youth climate and social activist, which adds to the growing number of instances of the Indian government’s targeting of social justice and human rights activists, in the context of intentisying mass protests.

We, the undersigned, condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old youth climate and social activist, who the Delhi Police arrested from her home in Bengaluru without following due process. We note that Ravi’s arrest adds to the growing number of instances in which the Government has targeted social justice and human rights activists, including the 23-year-old Dalit labour rights activist, Nodeep Kaur, who was arrested on 12 January from the site of Farmers’ Protests near the Singhu border and who has reportedly been tortured in police custody. Indeed, students and young activists, especially from minority communities, have been facing persecution by the Central Government for a long time now, simply because they chose to speak up as conscientious citizens of this country.

Various Indian law enforcement agencies and state governments have sought to intimidate, discredit, and prosecute students and young activists alongside other groups, such as farmers, laborers, academics, journalists, comedians, and ordinary citizens, for merely exercising their right to disagree with and question the Government, and support struggles they deem just and important.

Young people asking questions and protesting against injustice are upholding the most valued tenets of democracy. The increasingly repressive tactics employed by the Government to stifle these voices, create an environment of suspicion, instil fear, and curb any critical discussion and dialogue will undermine India’s democracy. We should strive to be a society in which people, especially the youth, are unafraid to ask questions and have the freedom to stand for democracy, secularism, and human freedoms.

We stand by the youth activists who have shown the courage to stand up for themselves, their fellow human beings, the future of the nation, and the health of the planet.

We demand that Disha Ravi, Nodeep Kaur and others, arrested merely for supporting the farmers movements and for protesting against the Government, be released, and all charges against them dropped. We also demand that warrants of a similar nature against others be withdrawn.

We demand that law enforcement agencies stop using anti-terror laws to terrorise citizens and repeal the antiquated sedition laws, which have repeatedly been abused to repress peaceful protests.

We urge every conscientious citizen of India, and citizens of the world, to ask questions of those in authority. We intend to keep asking questions of the Indian Government, whose leaders and officials have been speaking for the environment and human rights in global forums while engaging in blatant violations at home.

Prakash Kashwan, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Tejal Kanitkar, NIAS, Bengaluru

Ashish Kothari, Researcher-activist, Pune

Amita Baviskar, Ashoka University

Nikita Sud, University of Oxford

Nagraj Adve, Teachers Against the Climate Crisis

Sharachchandra Lele

The petition is available at Indian Academics and Researchers Condemn Government-Led Repression of Dissent

Feature image: Protests against the arrest of Nodeep Kaur. Credit: PTI/Kamal Singh, via The Wire