Most recently, toolkits were used during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the US last year. At least two such documents were used during the BLM protests: one that contains (pdf) information about the hashtags, process, and slogans related to the protest, and another one (pdf) by Greenpeace organisation containing the procedure elaborating the rights and stakeholders involved, among other necessary information.

The toolkit that resulted in Ravi’s arrest was not very different from the others. It was “a document meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis,” it stated.

A screenshot of the controversial read-only toolkit document.
A screenshot of the controversial read-only toolkit document.

Like in many other instances over the years, geopolitical experts believe that this arrest and FIR against the toolkit is the government’s attempt to distract people from the real issues.

Why is the toolkit an issue?

“The arrest of Disha Ravi furthers the impression that there is closing space for dissent and civil society activism in India,” Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Quartz.

Vaishnav further suggested that the arrest of the Bengaluru-based activist might put India’s global supporters in the spot. “Internationally, many of India’s well-wishers are scratching their heads. Rather than responding to Rihanna, demonising Greta Thunberg, or arresting student activists, a far more effective approach would be to call out the hypocrisy of Western governments who have placed strict limits on India’s farm exports,” Vaishnav said. “After all, this would show true solidarity with the plight of India’s farmers.”

In the past, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government has been in controversies over jailing activists and lawyers who have been its vocal critics. Grassroots workers such as Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao, or comedians like Munawar Faruqui are a few names in the long list of such arrests over the years. While some of them are out on bail, others are still waiting for freedom.

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