Swedish environmental activist Geeta Thurenberg has been all over the news in India this week. It all started when she extended her support to the ongoing farmer protest in India. She quoted in her tweet– We stand in solidarity with the Farmer Protest in India.
Her tweet came at a time when other major international celebrities like Rihanna, Amanda Cerny, Meena Harris (niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris) also lend their support to the peaceful protests.
The Indian government did not appreciate their open endorsement and support to the farmer protests which they believe is their internal matter.
What is the Indian Farmer protest about?
The farmer protest started in September 2020 when India’s parliament passed three controversial agriculture bills aimed at liberalizing the country’s farm sector.
They were finally signed into law, resulting in farmers’ protests across the country. The government argued that the new laws will give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside regulated markets and enter into contracts with buyers at a pre-agreed price.
Farmers’ associations believe that the legislation does not guarantee the acquisition of farm produce at the minimum support price, thus leaving them at the mercy of corporations that are now expected to enter the country’s troubled farming sector.
Violence erupted on January 26 during a tractor parade. Since then there have been occasional clashes between protesters, police, and anti-farmer groups including one at the Singhu border near Delhi.
The controversy about the ‘toolkit’ shared by Greta Thunberg
In her next tweet she shared a toolkit which she said was made by people on the ground in India if you want to help. The tweet has since been deledted and she thereafter shared an updated toolkit.
It is being theorized that the document was proof that an international conspiracy is being planned to defame India and the central government over the ongoing farmers’ protest.
What was the content of the earlier toolkit shared by Greta
The document listed down ‘Urgent actions’, needed to be taken in February.
- Creating TwitterStorm on February 4, and 5, from 11 am – 2 pm
- To share photo/video messages by an email ID ‘[email protected]’
- organize on-ground protests near the closest Embassy, media houses, or in front of the local government offices on February 13 and 14.
- Approach the government representatives, sign online petitions, and ‘divest’ from corporates like Adani and Ambani.
- Sharing solidarity photo/video messages shared by people up till January 25 through the same email ID.
- Conducting digital strikes with hashtag #AskIndiaWhy before January 26.
- Creating a TweetStorm on January 23 and 26.
On January 23, a Zoom meeting with Greens With Farmers’ Youth Coalition representative from Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture was also organized.
This was followed by an Instagram live session on the morning of January 26 with farmers at the Delhi borders, environment workers, and activists.
The document further stated that individuals held protests near Indian embassies, government offices, media houses, and Adani-Ambani offices globally.
The toolkit noted that “While we are focusing on the 26th, you are encouraged to continue organizing gatherings as and when possible – for this is not going to end anytime soon,” the document said. The above information was dated January 23 and 26.
It also asked the volunteers to tag their respective representatives and the UN to expose the brutality against the farmers.
The controversial part of the toolkit
The major contentious part of the document which offended some people in India was that the document further went on to say that India has a history of human rights violations, violence, and cruel indifference for its most vulnerable citizens.
It also alleged that Indian Billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani “manufacture wealth by working hand-in-hand with the present Modi Regime to exploit the world’s people, lands and culture.”
It is worth noting that the toolkit was made by Indian protestors which Greta Thunberg lend her support to. When the toolkit content created a storm she shared an updated toolkit with the omission of the controversial parts.
FIR filed by the Delhi Police
Many in Indian national media reported that an FIR has been filed against Greta Thunberg. However, the Delhi police have now made it clear that it has filed a case of sedition against unknown persons on the basis of a toolkit tweeted by Greta Thunberg to mobilize protesters in support of agitating farmers.
The cyber-crime cell of the Delhi Police has registered an FIR on charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “promoting hatred” against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ on farmer protests, which was shared by climate activists Greta Thunberg.
The police said that the sequence of events in the farmer protests, including the January 26 violence during the tractor rally, was a “copycat” of the alleged action plan shared in the toolkit. Special CP (Crime Branch) Praveer Ranjan said a preliminary inquiry indicated that the toolkit in question was created by the “pro-Khalistani organization” Poetic Justice Foundation.
When questioned whether Greta Thunberg had been named in the FIR, Ranjan said it was filed against unknown persons. “We have not named anybody. It is only against the creators of the toolkit, which is a matter of investigation.”
Ranjan said that with the farmers’ protest going on for long, the Delhi Police has been monitoring social media, and had identified almost 300 handles. “The Delhi Police has registered several cases against those handles which have been pushing either fake news or spreading some kind of rumours for the purpose of disaffection and ill-will.
In the process, we have come across one particular document uploaded on a social media handle on a particular platform. This toolkit has a particular section which talks of digital strikes through hashtags on and before January 26, tweetstorms from January 23 onwards, physical action on January 26, and asks one to watch out or join farmers’ march into Delhi.”
The Special CP added: “If you go by the unfolding of events including the violence of January 26, it reveals a copycat execution of the action plan.
Now that is a matter of concern… Definitely, the intention of the creators of this toolkit is to cause disharmony among social, religious, and cultural groups and encourage disaffection and ill-will against the government.
It also aims at waging a social, cultural, and economic war against the government, and says so.”
As news of the FIR went public, Greta Thunberg tweeted: “I still #StandWithFarmers and support their peaceful protest. No amount of hate, threats, or violations of human rights will ever change that. #FarmersProtest.”
The previous toolkit also had five links, titled ‘More Information — Important Links’, which are still working at the time of writing this article.
One leads to a website that talks about holding protests, donating, using social media to support the cause of farmers.
The website’s ‘about’ section says: “We are a volunteer group of individuals in Canada, the USA and the UK, who are passionate about social justice issues affecting the Indian agricultural community.
We feel distressed being far away from our Elders, Brothers, and Sisters who are fighting for autonomy over their land.”
Another link is for a website described as a “digital home to exploring geopolitics and ideas about freedom through data, writing, & technology”. The link provides leads to a page titled ‘Do I own products linked to Ambani?’, and mentions Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani.
There is also link to a newsletter on the anti-farm law protests, and a blog on the number of farmers who have allegedly died during the protests since late November.
The Sections mentioned in the Delhi Police FIR are 124 A of the IPC (spreading disaffection against the government), 153 A (promoting hatred amongst various communities on social/cultural/religious grounds), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), and 120 B (criminal conspiracy to give shape to such a plan).
The CP said the social media handles under watch are promoted by “some vested interest organizations for spreading disaffection against the government in the name of farmers’ agitation”, and said they had informed farmer leaders about these groups.
Tens of thousands of farmers are still protesting near the Indian capital and the controversies around the farmer protest do not seem to subside.