Now Charged With Sedition, Disha Fought for India at FFF Globally
Disha Ravi, a member of FFF’s MAPA wing, wanted Indians to represent the country in global climate change talks.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Disha Ravi, the 21-year-old Bengaluru-based climate change activist whom the Delhi Police arrested and charged with sedition on Sunday, 14 February, was the voice of India at the Global Climate Week event organised by Fridays for Future (FFF) in September 2020.
FFF is a global climate strike movement started by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. The movement encouraged students to strike demanding urgent action on the climate crisis.
The Quint gathered that Ravi, a vegan activist, was part of the FFF movement’s international MAPA wing. MAPA stands for Most Affected People and Areas – meaning, countries and peoples of the Global South (developing world), who bear the brunt of carbon emissions and climate change.
Standing for the Marginalised Indian
Ravi, who has been active in understanding unique challenges of India’s vulnerable peoples, wrote an impassioned Instagram post for FFF Karnataka: “This year we use the #FightClimateInjustice to highlight that climate change has deeply unequal impacts. Persons from marginalised and vulnerable communities are being worst affected by a crisis they did not create.”
She further wrote from the FFF Karnataka handle, a source confirmed, “We urge you to join us in amplifying the voices of the Most Affected People and Areas with the hashtag #FightClimateInjustice.”
What Did Disha Ravi Advocate for India?
On 25 September 2020, FFF activists across the globe had organised virtual meets and social media protests as part of the global climate week. The events went virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ravi, an active member of the Karnataka segment of FFF, contacted several global activists from developing countries to shift the focus of activism from climate crisis in Europe, the US, and China to developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where a large majority of people are affected by the climate crisis. As per research published in the journal Science Advances in 2017, South Asia is expected to experience “unliveable” temperature and humidity by the turn of the century if climate change goes unchecked.
“She was very passionate about MAPA and she made sure that there is enough representation of Indians in climate negotiations,” a source in FFF told The Quint, adding, “Disha talked to international publications and campaigned for Indian representation in climate talks. She wanted activists from India to represent India’s unique climate crises to a global audience.” As climate change does not become a rallying point for general elections in India, Ravi had felt that Indians should lead climate crisis talks globally.
In September 2020, in a Thompson Reuters Foundation opinion piece, which she co-authored with two other global climate change activists of FFF, Ravi wrote presciently, “Despite being on the climate front lines, young activists in our countries also face the injustices of persecution at home and being ignored in international media.”
The article, which says that climate crisis has already arrived in Asian countries, asks the United States, the European Union, and China, “What are the people responsible for the crisis doing?” The article further reads, “Climate activists from these areas (MAPA) are rarely featured in international media, even as the world celebrates the hope that the youth climate movement inspires. Only when the silencing of our voices in the global discussion about climate was so blunt that it could not be ignored, were some of us given a voice.”
As exemplified by her MAPA activism, farmers' protest was not the only Indian crisis which Disha Ravi had addressed. Ravi had opposed the Union government’s draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020. According to FFF activists, Ravi had written to Prakash Javadekar, the country’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, asking him to rethink the draft EIA. “Many of us felt that the draft EIA relaxes environmental clearances for the advantage of corporations. Disha felt that this was a cause worth taking up and wrote to the minister,” an FFF volunteer confirmed. While the contents of the note she wrote are not currently known, Ravi had a clear understanding of the farmers’ issues that she supported, her friends said.
Why Support Farmers’ Protest?
Doubling down on her MAPA activism, Ravi supported the farmers’ protest against the Union government’s new farm laws. FFF’s India chapter, too, had extended solidarity to the farmers. “FFF is not an elite organisation which talks about climate change in a vacuum,” the FFF source said.
“We think that environmental justice is closely linked to agriculture. We recognise that climate change affects stakeholders like farmers. A lot many of us including Disha amplified voices of farmers because of this.”
Ravi, the daughter of an agricultural family in Karnataka, felt rather moved by the farmers' plight. “She is the only salaried person in her family. The others, including her mother, depend on agriculture. It is only natural for her to have understood the farmers’ plight as a conscientious young activist,” a member of the FFF India team said. An alumna of Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru, Ravi also supports animal rights and is vehemently against deforestation.
The Delhi Police has accused Disha Ravi of having been the editor of an activist “toolkit”, which Greta Thunberg had tweeted this month as part of global support for farmers’ protest. About the toolkit, an FFF activist explained, “A toolkit merely familiarises a reader with the subject of urgency at hand. If one wants to learn about climate crisis and farmers’ protest in India one can go through the toolkit and understand the basic information.” The toolkit is expected to help create awareness, they explained.
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