22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was released from jail in New Delhi, India last week after being arrested and held on sedition charges for sharing a generic activist “tool kit” through social media. Because the tool kit was originally tweeted out by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government tweeted that Ravi is part of a “conspiracy at an international level against India. Need to investigate the parties which are pulling the strings of this evil machinery.”
While that may sound ridiculous, it makes more sense when we consider that Ravi and thousands of young activists have openly supported farmers in their massive protests to stop three farm “reform” laws that would open Indian farming up to the dictates of the market. This movement may be the largest mobilization since Indian independence, and is a real challenge to Modi’s merger of intense Indian nationalism with international corporate power.
To crush this threat to their corporate agenda, Modi and his allies use Indian nationalism to whip up hysteria against Muslims, Sikhs, or environmental activists connected to foreign activists. Ravi’s arrest and the propaganda leveled at her are meant to intimidate and silence other activists. And the Indian government is also preparing laws to force social media companies to take down content the government doesn’t like.
These actions by the Indian government are absolutely repressive. But they are also signs that Modi and those like him feel threatened – by the power of people united in opposition. Whether in India, Myanmar, Tunisia, France, Chile or the United States, we the people really do hold the power – if we choose to use it. Modi and the world’s rulers are working overtime to keep us from realizing that.