Washington Post’s hypocrisy on Disha and why India doesn’t need its democracy certificate

Abhijit Majumder
·4-min read

More than the introductory paragraph of an opinion piece in an internationally reputed media platform, it resembles the first salvo in a propaganda pamphlet. "Any government that would charge a 22-year-old climate and animal rights activist with sedition on the basis of a Google Doc cannot be readily described as a democracy," The Washington Post wrote in The Post's View on 25 February.

A 22-year-old is an adult and is treated as such under laws in both India and WaPo's home country, the United States. The US Federal Bureau of Prisons data as of 20 February, 2021, shows that 7,985 people between ages 18 and 25 are lodged in jail for offences.

Why is Disha's age so important then? Is it to evoke sympathy in the absence of a stronger defence for her actions?

Washington Post goes further to establish her credentials, calling her a "climate and animal rights activist". It, however, does not for once question Disha's €" as also star climate campaigner Greta Thunberg's €" extremely problematic stance against India's new farm laws.

The new laws seek to stop water-guzzling paddy cultivation which Punjab agriculturists do in the greed of bagging the sizeable minimum support price (MSP), whether there is a demand for rice or not. These largely rich farmers, many of whom drive around in SUVs, also enjoy massive subsidies on electricity and fuel.

And after harvest, the same farmers, mainly from Punjab, burn crop stubble. The smoke from these burning fields in winter makes Delhi and the larger National Capital Region (NCR) one of the most polluted places in the world.

By supporting the agitation, Greta and Disha have been supporting this multi-pronged onslaught on the environment.

WaPo's rant, sweeping generalisations and obfuscation of facts do not stop here.

"What's particularly disturbing about Ms. Ravi's persecution is that it is part of a broad pattern of speech suppression and other violations of democratic norms by the Modi government," the article says.

"Several journalists who covered a day of demonstrations by the protesters in New Delhi last month also face criminal charges. The government has pressured Twitter to block the accounts of hundreds of people linked to the protests. It has intimidated much of the mainstream Indian media into self-censorship."

What The Washington Post does not tell its international readers is that Disha was editing a toolkit (later mistakenly tweeted by Greta) which predated the wanton violence by the protesters in Delhi on 26 January. It seemed like a blueprint of the attack on the nation on what happened to be India's Republic Day. The toolkit called upon its user to "disrupt India's yoga and chai image".

One person was killed and more than 300 policemen were injured when hooligans, many of them driving tractors, overran India's capital, attacked the extremely restrained police force, and hoisted a Khalsa flag on the historic Red Fort premises.

There is not a single mention of that violence in the entire WaPo article. It also does not mention the Khalistan separatist angle to the protests. Mo Dhaliwal, a Canadian-born activist rallying for Khalistan, a separate homeland for Sikhs (a now-dormant terrorist movement that Pakistan's ISI is reportedly trying to revive), is linked to the Poetic Justice Foundation which created the controversial toolkit that Greta tweeted.

The Indian government has been right in asking Twitter to ban thousands of accounts exhorting separatism and violence for the last few months, hijacking any genuine grievance that real benefactors may have.

The protests became a ploy and platform for shadowy forces to wage a covert war on India. No nation tolerates that. Even America has the 18 US Code Chapter 115 which deals with "treason, sedition and subversive activities".

The Washington Post should be asked why it has been running a one-sided campaign against India over the abrogation of Article 370, Citizenship Amendment Act, and now the new farm laws? Why does it give space to only voices that are inimical to the democratic choice €" not once, but through two resounding mandates €" of the Indian people?

Does a certificate of democracy from such a platform matter anymore?

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