The arrest of 22-year-old climate change activist Disha A. Ravi by the Delhi police in connection with the Greta Thunberg toolkit case has left students, teachers, and parents shaken and angry.
The way Disha was arrested, allegedly without due procedure being followed, has parents worried. Many young students that The Hindu spoke to said their parents have advised them to stay away from public glare and “tone down” dissenting messages on social media platforms. “My parents are extremely liberal and have always encouraged me to speak out, whether at home or oppression by the government. But now, they have asked me to delete all my social media accounts,” said a student of Mount Carmel College, who actively participated in the anti-CAA protests in the city.
Other students, too, said their parents had given them similar advice. The last thing any parent wants is for the police to knock on their doors, arrest their child, and take them to another State.
Student-led organisations, who mobilise hundreds of youth to speak out on a range of issues ranging from the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act to protecting the environment, feel this is an attempt by authorities to silence them.
Organisations like the Students’ Federation of India are planning to stage protests across the State demanding the immediate release of Disha. Amaresh Kadagada, SFI State president, said it was an attempt by the government to suppress the voice of anyone with an opposing view.
Ajay Kamath, Karnataka State secretary, All India Democratic Students’ Organisation, said the recent arrests were an attempt at smothering student voices and creating fear among those talking against the government. “In a democratic country like ours, the government must not fear opposing views. Rather, it should encourage free thinking and nurture young minds so that people can speak up for what they feel is right, or for the betterment of society without fear,” he said.
Others feel that Disha’s arrest will jolt the student establishment out of complacency. “It will strengthen the voice of students who continue to question the government and the police for taking up such autocratic measures. The aim of the government is to curtail the freedom of expression of the youth and scare us away so that we do not dissent. But the more the government attempts to silence us, the stronger our voices will grow,” said Zeeshan Aaqil, State executive committee member, Students’ Islamic Organisation of India.