Toolkit case: War of words between BJP, opposition over climate activist's arrest

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) The action taken by the Delhi Police on an FIR related to a toolkit shared by climate campaigner Greta Thunberg in support of the ongoing farmer protests has triggered a war of words between the opposition and the ruling BJP.

Accusing the government of 'murdering democracy' by using force against a 21-year-old, the opposition on Monday said the voice of India cannot be silenced even as the BJP defended the action, saying a crime is a crime no matter at what age.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led the opposition offensive following the arrest of 21-year-old Disha Ravi in the case 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.

'India will not be silenced,' he added.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the arrest of Disha Ravi and said the BJP government should first take action against its own IT cell which, she alleged, is spreading fake news.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, 'Arrest of 21 year old Disha Ravi is an unprecedented attack on Democracy. Supporting our farmers is not a crime.' The CPI(M) condemned the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi saying the 'paranoid' government should stop the 'persecution' of activists.

RJD leader Manoj Jha said democracy is under threat. 'I am worried about democracy, as it is passing through the most difficult times,' he said.

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.' BJP general secretary B L Santosh tweeted, '21 year old...environment activist... student...Are these credentials for becoming a part of breaking India forces? How does she get the access for editing tool kit...? Why she is part of anti-national WhatsApp groups...? Many questions...But only one answer...21 year old.' BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said these parties, especially the Congress, have always stood with 'anti-India' forces in their bid to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said Ravi's arrest by Delhi police has totally exposed the 'nefarious conspiracies of the break India forces' to demean the integrity of India.

'Astonishingly for the opposition Bharat Ratnas like Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar can be investigated but 'break India forces' should receive protection under the garb of freedom of expression,' Patra said.

As the debate got polarised, Haryana's Home Minister Anil Vij stepped in to say that whoever harbours the seed of anti-nationalism in their mind should be completely destroyed.

Congress' Shashi Tharoor reacted saying, 'Surely tweets like this are far more harmful to our democracy than anything in the 'toolkit' Disha Ravi retweeted?' Former Union ministers P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh also came out strongly against the police action in the case, accusing the government of running an authoritarian regime as it was threatened by a student.

'I strongly condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi and urge all students and youth to raise their voices to protest against the authoritarian regime,' Chidambaram said.

'The Indian state must be standing on very shaky foundations if Disha Ravi, a 22 year old student of Mount Carmel college and a climate activist, has become a threat to the nation,' he said.

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....' 'This is Tanashaahi in New India called Amit Shahi,' he said.

In a tweet in Hindi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, 'The ones with guns are afraid of an unarmed girl. The flames of courage from an unarmed girl have spread.' She also used hashtags 'ReleaseDishaRavi' and 'IndiaBeingSilenced'.

'Has the government lost its balance? Will not such trumped-up charges, seeing conspiracy in regular social media mobilisation, do more damage to democracy?' asked Congress leader Rajeev Gowda.

Reacting to the charges, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said, 'A criminal is a criminal, gender and age are immaterial if not a juvenile. Just for your knowledge, Kasab was 21 when he attacked Mumbai.' BJP's IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya said, '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.' Cogress leader Kapil Sibal said, 'Disha Ravi remanded to police custody by the duty magistrate. Who is to blame for this? This heartless government: No. The Duty Magistrate : No. They are what they are. We are to blame who watch unmoved when the mighty State tramples upon are brothers and sisters.' Climate activist Disha Ravi along with Mumbai lawyer Nikita Jacob and Pune engineer Shantanu created the 'toolkit' related to the farmers' agitation and shared it with others to tarnish India's image, the Delhi Police said.

Non-bailable warrants have been issued against Nikita and Shantanu for allegedly creating the 'toolkit', the Delhi Police said, adding that it was aimed at tarnishing the image of India. PTI SKC KR AAR AAR