Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Creators of ‘toolkit’ booked for conspiracy and sedition

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The Delhi Police on Thursday said they have registered a first information report (FIR) to probe a “toolkit”, or document, that allegedly detailed an action plan for online and offline protests linked to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, including those during a tractor rally in the national capital on Republic Day.

The toolkit was tweeted by Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg along with a post in support of the agitating farmers.

At a news briefing, Praveer Ranjan, special commissioner of police (crime), said the FIR against the creators of the toolkit mentioned charges of criminal conspiracy and sedition, but did not name any individual. He was responding to a question that if police had registered a case against Thunberg.

Hours earlier, as reports of an FIR against Thunberg were flashed by multiple news outlets — police later clarified the FIR was against unknown persons — the 18-year-old activist posted: “I still #StandWithFarmers and support their peaceful protest. No amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change that. #FarmersProtest.”

During the media briefing, Ranjan pointed to a “copycat execution of the action plan detailed in the toolkit” in the past few days, including the protests on January 26 that plunged into chaos. He said an initial probe revealed that the document was created by pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF).

HT could not find any verified social media handle or contact number of PJF. The group’s website did not have any contact details. Ranjan did not specify who exactly would be probed or how the investigators planned to go about it.

The toolkit became a talking point after Thunberg shared a link to the document on Wednesday, deleted it, and then again posted an updated link on Thursday.

“Here’s an updated toolkit by people on the ground in India if you want to help. (They removed their previous document as it was outdated.),” Thunberg, who has supported the farmers protesting against three controversial agricultural laws, said.

The updated toolkit, which HT has seen, gave a brief description of the ongoing farmers’ agitation and called upon people to participate or organise on-ground protests, post tweets supporting the agitation, contact legal representatives and sign petitions. It did not appear to be out of the ordinary as guidelines for online protest campaigns go.

The farmers’ agitation has been getting global attraction with international celebrities such as pop star Rihanna and activist Thunberg tweeting in support of the protesters. Actor Amanda Cerny, singers Jay Sean and Dr Zeus, and US sporting icons Juju Smith Schuster, Baron Davis and Kyle Kuzma supported the farmers. They were joined by lawmakers from the UK, the US and other countries.

Police are probing the contents of the first “toolkit” that was brought down, according to officials who did not want to be named. Officials did not explain how international celebrities and lawmakers became a part of the campaign.

Ranjan said the toolkit had an action plan that called for “digital strikes through hashtags” on or before January 26, “tweets storm” from January 23, and “physical action” on January 26, among others.

“Design of the author of the toolkit is to create disharmony among various social, religious and cultural groups and encourage disaffection against the government of India. It also aims at waging social, cultural and economic war against India,” he said.

The FIR was registered by the cyber cell of the Delhi Police under the Indian Penal Code’s sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 124A (spreading disharmony), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riots) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups).

Ranjan said the toolkit was noticed by the police while monitoring social media accounts peddling “hateful and malicious content” related to ongoing the farmers’ protest.

“During our negotiations with the farmer leaders (before the tractor march on Republic Day), we had made them aware that vested interests were using the agitation to spread disaffection and hatred towards the Indian government,” he said.

Vikram Singh, former director general of Uttar Pradesh Police, said the FIR was “perfectly in order” as the toolkit was part of a “concerted international effort against the country”.

“Agitations are welcome, but the toolkit was actually meant to serve as a call for violence even as it left many things unwritten,” Singh said.

An Indian security assessment, seen by HT, suggested that a coordinated campaign involving “a number of global celebrities”, was being run in the backdrop farmer’s protest. According to the assessment, the “content and the campaign” were being designed and run through www.askindiawhy.com. It added that this website was managed through another platform called Poetic Justice Foundation, allegedly run by a Canadian Khalistani who runs a PR agency and is close to politicians in Canada.

“While the campaign takes the cover of farmers protest, content is designed to play on the same three fault lines that have been used to target India particularly by Pakistan, viz. the Sikh, Muslim and the Dalit agenda…,” the assessment said.

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