Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist with a history of calling out and challenging world leaders about their country’s environmental practices. She has recently been involved in political conversations in India, around the farmer’s protests in the country, after she shared a tweet expressing her support for the farmer’s protesting in India and a ‘protest toolkit.’
The farmer’s protest witnessed widespread support from the international community along with concerns about human rights perpetrated by the government.
A toolkit is a set of guidelines, ideas, and suggested actions to people without the same level of expertise or on-ground knowledge laid out by an organization to get something done. This can be related to protests or social work in any form. Specifically focussing on protests, ‘protest toolkits’ give details about how to contribute, where to donate, and readings to understand the nature of the protest better. Toolkits can come in the form of simple shared documents, websites, or carrd.co documents, or even simple infographics and Instagram graphics.
The Farmer Protest Toolkit that was shared by Greta Thunberg has seen charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy, and promoting hatred levelled in a Delhi Police FIR against the creators. The contents of the toolkits are similar to many other toolkits made on social justice issues.
The toolkit, now deleted by Greta, contained information about how ‘you could help’, which detailed Twitter storms on February 4th and 5th, and protests near the closest Indian Embassy, media house, or government office on February 13th and 14th. The Toolkit also contained links to further readings on agriculture in India and the reasoning behind the farm laws protests. All in all, it was a pretty standard ‘protest toolkit’.
A ‘protest toolkit’, that the government and the police are trying to paint as a most nefarious document, is actually part and parcel of protest mobilization all around the world. It serves many purposes, but the main ones are as follows.
An example of a toolkit (of the Hong Kong protests): https://standwithhongkong.carrd.co/
Therefore, it appears strange that the Police would lodge an FIR against the makers of a toolkit, as it is standard and legal practice for any dissenting group. Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association explains in a Twitter thread how this FIR, despite its frivolous nature, can be used to curb dissent.
#Thread The FIR against @GretaThunberg isn’t a joke. @DelhiPolice claims the toolkit is proof of a “conspiracy”. In the protests against the Islamophobic citizenship law CAA, the same police used a WhatsApp group as pretext to arrest scores of activists for “conspiracy” to riot!
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) February 4, 2021
To sum up her argument, she points out how these absurd ideas like a Whatsapp chat in the case of the CAA protests, vague conspiracies in the
case of Elgar Parishad, have been used to jail dissenting voices under the UAPA from which bail is impossible. The same may well be applied to farm and union leaders involved in the farmer’s protests. She also points out how the Far-right Hindu mobs involved in all of the above are scot-free.
One can also draw a damning conclusion about the nature of the ruling power, that is more concerned about its image abroad than the lakhs of protesters sitting in the freezing North Indian cold for months. From personal experience of covering the Anti-CAA protests in Delhi in late 2019 and early 2020, I would draw a comparison to protests which were planned in and around Embassy areas.
Many activists like Umar Khalid were arrested under the UAPA and are still in jail without trial.
All of these protests were quickly and vigorously shut down, with anyone looking like a student arrested under the pretext of Section 144, even if they were alone or in a group of fewer than 5 people. At times, the Mandir Marg Police Station would be filled to the brim with overflowed detainees, who were just kept in the station till 5 pm and let go. This points simply to the fact that the government does not want foreign ambassadors and diplomats to see civil unrest and dissent because it will tarnish their image.
The question that one has to ask is this, does our government care more about ‘Protest Toolkits’ and frivolous ‘conspiracies’ tarnishing the BJP’s image, or does it care about its constituents who are protesting and dying on Delhi’s borders for their rights?