Disha protest
A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the arrest of 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, outside the police headquarters in New Delhi, India, February 16, 2021 Image Credit: Reuters

Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist and the granddaughter of a farmer is the new target, hitting bullseye though is no longer even a formality. Disha has been remanded to police custody for five days over a toolkit linked to Greta Thunberg.

That Disha has been booked for sedition for editing a publicly available Google document would have been ludicrous if the charges were not so serious. After all, on social media and on the streets, we are masters of make in India tool kits.

That due procedure for a transit remand was not followed by the Delhi police in whisking Disha from Bengaluru should be equally shocking, but that is how we roll today when a Komal Sharma- the masked woman who led the alleged attack at a university campus more than a year ago still roams free. Someone must always be unequal, because some are more equal than others.

The betrayal is on all fronts — the police and a pliant media. Disha did not even have access to a lawyer in court. ‘Bail is rule, jail is an exception’ this legal doctrine has a new definition — any dissent in a democracy is illegal. Warrants are out for another lawyer-activist.

A crime not committed

There has already been a dress rehearsal of how this pans out. Actress Rhea Chakravarty was jailed for a crime she did not commit. Those leading the witch-hunt against her would not have survived a day in her place. From a media baying for her blood to misogynist men openly shaming her, none have apologised for the mental torture they put her through.

Rhea Chakraborty
Actress Rhea Chakraborty faced a media trial as soon as the news broke out regarding the FIR filed against her Image Credit: AFP

It does not fit their narrative that a hero — a man, the late Sushant Singh Rajput was human after all. Today the same media is gleefully trying to build another conspiracy narrative for Disha.

This new normal for many is also voyeuristic. Men — doctors and grandfathers are busy tweeting Disha’s obscenely morphed pictures with slanderous accusations. When patriarchy is so inherent and casual, it is obvious that so many men will prefer to miss the wood from the trees.

A voice has hit a raw nerve, a patriarchal pulse. But it didn’t happen overnight — this extreme reaction to the women and youth of the country.

The insecurity that recently made legends, fallen heroes through copy pasted tweets has been systemically unleashed on women protesting peacefully over months.

The poetry reciting dadis of Shaheen Bagh, the lady farmers of Punjab sitting proudly atop their tractors, Nodeep Kaur, Safoora Zargar, Tapsee Pannu, Farah Khan Ali and several women journalists have one thing in common — they rattle a system that confounds with its shaky self-belief.

A vibrant democracy

India’s population is among the youngest globally. More than half the country’s population is below 25 years of age- an age that needs constructive jobs and a vibrant democracy.

And, despite the memes against Disha, the youth does care deeply about the environment. Instead, it has in recent times been accosted at university campuses across the country and tear-gassed in libraries.

Disha Ravi
Activist Disha Ravi is escorted by police officials as she walks out of the court in New Delhi, on February 14, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Today many jittery parents will have got the message- tell your children to stop their activism and focus on their studies. It will take a very strong parent and a stronger person who will allow his child to stand up and to be counted. Only he or she will realise that the women and youth of today are doing something right.

Deepika Padukone who once extended her support to the protesting students at the JNU campus rattled enough feathers to be called for questioning in the Sushant Singh Rajput drug case. Retribution is swift but change is never led by the meek and the mild or those who know not what they tweet.

The biggest disservice we have done as a society is to only teach our girls how to behave. We never questioned the self- entitled role of the Indian man. Today when the dynamics are shifting, the women are still considered soft targets, their actions are either dissent or that of an ‘andolan jeevi.’

The pretence over the slogan ‘Beti bachao Beti Padhao’ has also been shed although empty rhetoric or hollow slogans- no one knows what comes first.

The episodic suspensions of democratic rights and fair play is hint enough, could the ground be shifting? The world though is watching.

What is it about women and the youth that rankles so much? Is that while dismissing history, ironically one keen eye is firmly on it?

More than anything, the young don’t forget, and they will remember being silenced when it was their time — to seeks answers and question the unjust. It may not be the endgame just yet.