Bengaluru based climate change activist Disha Ravi says she was not just put through a long-drawn passport verification process, but was also issued a show cause notice, in an exclusive interview to The Quint.
Bengaluru police issued the notice asking Ravi to explain why she 'did not reveal' that she was arrested in February 2021.
Ravi, however, says she had mentioned the sedition charges against her in the passport application that she had filed on 17 August. Even so, she says she did reply to the show cause notice in the first week of November.
Speaking to The Quint, Ravi said that it was important for her, an activist associated with the climate change group Fridays for Future (FFF), to attend the United Nations' global climate change summit, COP 26 that concluded on 16 November. The delay in the passport application and verification process forced her to miss the summit.
'Long, Tedious Process'
Ravi said, "If they wanted to deny me the passport they could have done so when I applied for it. Why put me through a long, tedious process and then issue a show cause notice?"
Ravi wanted to attend the summit as a journalist covering the event for Grist media, a non-profit organisation.
In early 2021, she was charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code that deal with sedition, criminal conspiracy and promotion of enmity between communities. She was released on bail on 24 February.
The Delhi police's case against her had drawn flak, as arresting her for allegedly editing parts of an activists' toolkit for farmers' protest, came across as an action based on flimsy grounds.
Detailing her experience of applying and waiting for a passport, the young activist on Saturday, 13 November, wrote an article for the UK based media house, Independent. She later posted her comments about the same on Twitter.
The Quint also asked Disha Ravi why she had applied for a passport when her bail conditions prevent her from leaving the country.
'Put Through Two Verification Processes'
Ravi said that she was planning to file for an exemption on her bail conditions at the Additional Sessions Court in New Delhi.
When she applied for the passport in the Bengaluru passport office, she was asked to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the court which had granted her bail. Through two hearings that were held remotely, Ravi had in fact obtained the NOC. "Even if one was arrested, an NOC is not mandatory while applying for passport," Ravi said, citing Ministry of External Affairs' passport application rules.
While the passport office accepted her application after she obtained the NOC, the Bengaluru police went slow with the verification. "They came home for the verification but delayed the process further." From the time she applied for her passport, it took 60 days for the police to issue to the show cause notice, she added.
Since then, Ravi's response to the show cause notice has been accepted by the passport office. However, she will now have to undergo the police verification process again. Ravi said, "I had already spoken extensively about the case with the police. As for the second verification process, the police have not come home yet."
The Quint reached out to the concerned Bengaluru police station (identity of which is being withheld as it would reveal Ravi's current residential address) but was not told why a second verification has been ordered. The police, however, confirmed the delay, stating they were only following the "due process".
Ravi, a 22-year-old, who is currently working in Bengaluru, said that she "deserved to be at the summit".
'It is My Right. Also, I Have Worked for It'
Ravi, who has been an active member of Bengaluru's civil society said, "COP26 was essentially where a large chunk of the decisions about climate are made. And it was important that the news about it, gets out the way it was supposed to."
Ravi wanted to report on the event extensively as not many grass root activists get access to COP26. She says she deserved to attend the event as she had worked towards it. "Besides, it every person has the right to work," she added.
Ravi, as a member of FFF, has been protesting the dilution of India's Forest Conservation Act and the Forest Rights Act, contending that the amendments hurt the weakest sections of society. FFF has also been campaigning against the dilution of the Coastal Regulation Zone norms.
The young activist also said that she has been critical of the targets that India set for itself at COP26. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the event.
'India, This is About Our Present'
Ravi said that India, as a developing country, has lesser responsibility to mitigate climate change because the country's economic resources are limited. "But we are not acting even according to our lesser responsibilities. We need to hold our leaders accountable because this is not just about our future but also about our present," she said.
The promises that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made at COP 26 cannot be kept, if climate is not at heart of every policy in the country, she added. Modi has announced that India will attain its Carbon net zero target by 2070. Meaning, the country's greenhouse gas emissions will be lesser than those cleared from the atmosphere by that year.
Ravi accuses the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of diluting laws relating to forest and environment. For instance, she believes more needs to be done towards phasing out coal consumption.
"India should introduce a just transition plan by which the country will move away from coal and towards renewable energy eventually," she said. Minister of Environment, Bhupender Yadav, does not seem to have a plan, Ravi rued.
The subcontinent is already facing effects of climate change, including the floods in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, she said. However, the activist also expressed her chagrin at the Global North or the developed, European countries and the US.
Critical of Global North's Promises
Ravi, like many climate change activists, is of the opinion that the onus of mitigating the climate change crisis rests more on the developed world than the developing world. Young climate activists from the country should be able to raise this concern in global forums, she said.
"I am very disappointed with the way the Global North countries have been promising finance (towards alleviating emissions) but have not delivered. There was no focus on loss and damages," she said. By the end of the century, earth will be warmer by 2.7 degrees Celsius, even if the promises made at COP 26 are kept, she observed, adding that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius will be hard for countries like India to manage.
"It will be very difficult to live in India as temperatures rise," she said. Delhi police has not yet filed a closure report on the case against Ravi.