New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) A Mumbai lawyer and a Beed engineer joined arrested climate activist Disha Ravi in creating a protest toolkit backing the farmers’ agitation with the aim of “tarnishing the image of India” and collaborated with pro-Khalistani elements, Delhi Police officials said on Monday.
Non-bailable warrants have been issued against lawyer Nikita Jacob and engineer Shantanu, who are absconding. On January 11, 15 days ahead of the Republic Day violence in the national capital, the two attended a Zoom meeting organised by pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation, said Joint Commissioner of Police (Cyber) Prem Nath. The meeting decided the modalities to create the toolkit titled 'Global Farmer Strike' and 'Global Day of Action, 26 January', Nath said at a press conference.
As the case added layers, polarising views on social media and outside, officials said they are also probing an ISI element through a man called Peter Friedrich whose name is on the document and who is known to be associated with an operative of the organisation. Ravi, Jacob and Shantanu created the toolkit and sent it to others, officials alleged as a fierce political debate broke out between the opposition and and the ruling BJP over the action against 21-year-old Ravi in the case related to the “toolkit Google doc”, which came to light when it was shared by global climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.
According to Nath, the email account created by Shantanu is the “owner” of the Google document and PFJ founder Mo Dhaliwal had contacted them through a Canada-based woman called Punit.
'Disha, Shantanu and Nikita created and edited the toolkit. Disha sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg through Telegram. Disha deleted a Whatsapp group which she created to spread the toolkit. Due procedure was followed when Disha was arrested,' Nath said.
'The toolkit was aimed at tarnishing the image of India,' he added and described the toolkit as a dynamic document with hyperlinks to Google docs, “a lot of which are 'pro-Khalistani'.
The police claimed that Ravi “coaxed” teen activist Thunberg to act on it.
Ravi was arrested from Bengaluru on Saturday and sent to police remand for five days by a Delhi court on Sunday with officials claiming she was an editor of the 'toolkit Google doc' and 'key conspirator' in its formulation and dissemination.
A day later, Delhi Police officials said they were conducting raids in several places, including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Beed, to nab Jacob and Shantanu, known so far only by one name. He lives in Beed and studied in Pune, they said.
Jacob approached the Bombay High Court seeking transit anticipatory bail for four weeks so she can approach the concerned court in Delhi to apply for pre-arrest bail. The high court will hear the plea on Tuesday.
Her plea stated that she is unaware if she is named as an accused or witness in the case. 'However, the applicant (Jacob) fears that she may be arrested due to political vendetta and media trial,' her application said.
During a search of Jacob’s house on February 11, two laptops and an iPhone were found along with several 'incriminating documents', police said.
Elaborating on the ISI -- Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence – element, officials said Friedrich has been on the radar since 2006 when he was noticed in the company of Bhajan Singh Bhinder alias Iqbal Chaudhary, a “leading proponent of the K2 desk of ISI”.
'Why his name is there on the document… will be answered by Disha and her associates. Did they contact Friedrich through Mo Dhaliwal or directly contacted him is a matter of investigation,' a senior official said.
Thunberg had shared the 'toolkit' in early February to lend her support to the farmers' agitation against the Centre’s three new agri laws.
The document listed a series of actions, including creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies, to be taken to support the farmers' protest.
The toolkit has been cited by some critics as 'proof' of a conspiracy to fuel protests in India.
Earlier this month, the Cyber Cell had lodged an FIR against 'pro-Khalistan' creators of the 'toolkit' for waging a 'social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India'. The case has been registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
While many in the BJP defended Delhi Police, several opposition leaders accused the government of 'murdering democracy' by using force against a 21-year-old and called for her release.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led the opposition offensive following Ravi’s arrest and said the country will not be silenced.
'Your lips are free to speak. Say that the truth is still alive. They are scared, not the country,' he said in a tweet in Hindi.
His party colleague Jairam Ramesh said, 'Delhi Police on the rampage. After Disha Ravi, it is now the turn of another young woman, Nikita Jacob. More will no doubt follow....' West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was equally scathing.
'Arresting anybody who is protesting against government policies is not unacceptable. The BJP should first take action against its own IT Cell members who are spreading fake news. Why two sets of rules?' she said at a press conference in Kolkata.
Her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal described Ravi’s arrest as an “unprecedented attack on democracy” and said supporting farmers is not a crime.
The Samukuta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the farmers’ protests, also condemned the arrest and demanded her immediate release Defending the action, Union minister and BJP leader Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted: 'If age is the criteria then Param Veer Chakra Second Lt Arun Khetarpal, martyred at 21 is who I am proud of. Not some toolkit propagandists.' His party colleague B L Santosh asked whether '21 year old...environment activist...student...” are credentials for becoming a part of “breaking India forces”.
As the debate got more polarised, BJP's IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya brought in Delhi’s JNU and Jamia Miliia Islamia into the debate.
'The Left has been using young impressionable minds as cannon fodder for their deranged politics for a long time. From JNU to Jamia, AMU to Nadwa and now Disha Ravi, are all part of their sinister plot...Unfortunately they are abandoned soon after they have served their purpose.' Delhi Police had earlier asked Google and other social media giants to provide information about e-mail id, URLs and social media accounts related to the creators of the 'toolkit' shared by Thunberg and others on Twitter in connection with the farmers' protest.
This was following the clashes on January 26 during the farmers’ tractor parade on January 26 in the national capital. Over 500 police security personnel were injured while one protestors died during the Republic Day violence.
Pop star Rihanna started the global chorus of support for India’s farmers. 'Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest,' she had tweeted, linking a CNN news article on the internet shutdown around New Delhi as protesters clashed with the police. PTI AMP BUN SKC SP MIN MIN MIN