Twenty one-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was sent to five days of police custody by a magistrate in Delhi’s Patiala House Court on February 14. Ravi was arrested from Bengaluru by the Delhi Police in the ‘protest-toolkit case’. In a series of tweets, Delhi Police claims that Disha is the ‘editor of’ the toolkit and a ‘key conspirator’. The unnamed FIR said that the preparation of the toolkit and its content come under sedition as it intends to wage a “cultural, economic, and regional war against India”. Police further said that Ravi created a WhatsApp group to formulate the toolkit, collaborated with an allegedly pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation, and transferred the toolkit to Greta Thunberg.

What is ‘Protest Toolkit’?

The toolkit comprises a set of guidelines that need to be followed to achieve a certain set of goals. Toolkits have been used by government departments as well as private organisations to gain social media momentum. Toolkits were used for Occupy Wall Street protest (2011), pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong (2019), and anti-CAA protests in Delhi.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted a toolkit, which was deleted later. According to The Quint, the document under “Urgent Action” provided hashtags, timelines, and forums for social media storm. Under the head “How Can You Help”, it stated: “On‌ ‌26 ‌‌January,‌ ‌a‌ ‌major‌ ‌day‌ ‌of‌ ‌globally‌ ‌coordinated‌ ‌actions,‌ ‌show‌ ‌your‌‌ support‌ ‌at‌ ‌local‌ physical‌‌ locations,‌ ‌wherever‌ ‌you‌ ‌are.‌ ‌Either‌ ‌find‌ ‌protests‌ ‌happening‌ ‌in‌‌y our‌ ‌city/state/country‌ and‌ ‌participate ‌‌in‌ ‌large‌ ‌(or‌ ‌small)‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌or‌ ‌organise‌ ‌one.‌ ‌In‌ ‌addition‌ ‌to‌‌ the‌ ‌options‌ ‌below,‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌‌ encouraged‌ ‌to‌ ‌organise‌ ‌solidarity‌ ‌protests‌ ‌either‌ ‌‌at/near‌ ‌‌Indian ‌‌embassies‌,‌ ‌near‌ ‌your‌ local‌ ‌govt.‌ offices‌ ‌or‌ ‌offices‌ ‌of‌ ‌various‌ ‌multinational‌ ‌Adani‌ ‌and‌ ‌Ambani‌ ‌companies.‌‌ While‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌focusing ‌‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌26th,‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌encouraged‌ ‌to‌ ‌continue‌ ‌organising‌ ‌gatherings ‌‌as‌ ‌and‌ ‌when‌ ‌possible‌‌ — for‌ ‌this‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌end‌ ‌anytime‌ ‌soon.”

Can Protest Toolkit be Termed “Seditious”?

According to Special Commissioner of Police, Delhi, CP Ranjan, the events that happened on January 26 were a “copycat execution” of the details mentioned in the toolkit. In a press release on February 15, Delhi Police said, “The main aim of the toolkit was to create misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully enacted government. The toolkit sought to artificially amplify the fake news and other falsehoods and also sought to precipitate action on 26 January, that is, India’s Republic Day.”

As per Section 124A of the IPC, sedition means “attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India”. According to The Quint, the toolkit didn’t contain anything that incited protestors to opt for violence.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde believes that the Delhi Police will face difficulty in a court of law. “Sedition has a high bar to cross. The speech must be such as to actually incite violence. The toolkit was only speech in support of farmers. I doubt that it meets the standard of what constitutes sedition, as upheld by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath & Balwant Singh cases,” he explained to The Quint.