An Indian court on Tuesday granted bail to a climate activist accused of sedition after distributing a document intended to help protesting farmers organize.
The case of activist Disha Ravi, 21, is the latest test of the independence of Indian justice in a turn to nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose agricultural policy is at the heart of a protest by several months of the country’s farmers.
Ms Ravi was arrested at her home in the southern city of Bangalore on February 13. She was later accused of distributing an online instruction manual called a “toolkit” in the form of a Google document containing talking points and contact details for influential groups. Authorities say this led to violence during a protest in Delhi last month.
His arrest sparked outrage from former police officers, retired officials and public intellectuals, who accused Mr. Modi’s government of using the country’s law enforcement to target political opponents.
Thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the capital since November to protest a series of new laws that dismantle a subsidy system that has protected them for decades from the vagaries of the free market.
Although the protests were largely peaceful, violence erupted on January 26 in New Delhi. Dozens of farmers and police were injured and one person was killed.
Ms Ravi’s activism was previously associated with the climate movement launched by 18-year-old Swedish Greta Thunberg. The toolkit, which international activists say is a commonly distributed document, was brought to the attention of Indian authorities after Ms Thunburg tweeted it in solidarity with Indian farmers.
Delhi police, investigating the violence during the January 26 protest, said the purpose of the document was to stir up unrest and “defame” the country.
“If it is sedition to highlight the protest of farmers around the world,” Ravi told court, “I’m better off in prison.”
On Tuesday, Delhi Sessions Court Judge Dharmender Rana said there was little reason to detain Ms Ravi and questioned the logic of the prosecution by linking the toolkit and violence.
The judge set Ms Ravi’s bond at around 100,000 rupees, or $ 1,370, on condition that she remain in Delhi.