Ravi, who is in her early 20s, was arrested on charges relating to her role in disseminating a toolkit that provided a list of ways supporters could help Indian farmers’ months-long protest against new laws that change how the country’s agricultural industry operates.
Ravi has since been granted bail.
“In all the years that someone had asked me where I see myself in 5 years, I would have never answered ‘jail’ but here I was,” she wrote, in a statement posted on Twitter. “Locked in my cell I wondered when it became a crime to think the most basic elements of sustenance on this planet were as much mine as theirs.”
Ravi’s arrest provoked outrage from high-profile figures including author Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, and many Indian politicians, who accused authorities of trying to intimidate and muzzle a young woman for speaking her mind.
The toolkit, which was unsigned and publicly available on an encrypted sharing site, instructed people to call government representatives, share solidarity hashtags on social media, participate in rallies and sign petitions. It gained visibility after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted a link to it on February 4, crediting “people on the ground in India.”
However, its release appeared to anger Indian authorities. The same day as Thunbgerg’s tweet, Delhi police announced they would investigate the toolkit’s creators and would look to charge them with sedition, provoking or inciting a riot and criminal conspiracy because it called for followers to “wage economic, social, cultural and regional war against India.”
Police in New Delhi argued the toolkit’s main purpose to “misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully elected government.” Authorities accused Ravi, whose grandparents are farmers, of helping to author the document, which was unsigned and made publicly available on an encrypted sharing site.
As Ravi’s case makes its way through India’s legal system, farmers continue to protest the laws, which many believe will cost them their livelihoods.
Historically, Indian farmers have sold their goods at auction at their state’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee, where sellers were guaranteed to receive at least the government-agreed minimum price. There were restrictions on who could buy, and prices were capped for essential commodities.
The new laws dismantled that system, instead allowing farmers to sell their goods to anyone for any price.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, long a proponent of free market reforms, has argued the new legislation will allow farmers sell directly to buyers or other states without a middle man.
But many farmers say the changes will allow big companies to drive down prices. While farmers could sell crops at higher prices if the demand is there, many worry they could struggle to meet the minimum price in years when there is too much supply.
Indian climate campaigner Disha Ravi revealed she never imagined her activism would see her jailed in her first statement since her controversial arrest and detention last month.