Will the Toolkit Issue Lead to Banning Twitter?

Published : Feb 22, 2021 12:28 pm | By: M D Sridharan

Will the Toolkit Issue Lead to Banning Twitter?


The ongoing tussle between Twitter and the Government of India is getting bigger and bigger ever since, the Delhi Police established the “toolkit” connection for the farmers protest on the Republic Day.

The ongoing tussle between Twitter and the Government of India is getting bigger and bigger ever since, the Delhi Police established the root cause for the farmers protest on the Republic Day and the subsequent discretion of the national flag at the iconic Ramparts of Red Fort is the anti-India smear campaign initiated against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP. The Delhi police found out that the protest was fuelled through a ‘toolkit’ released by Sweden’s teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, It was a global tweet storm, initiated by Greta Thunberg against Modi government. Delhi police also revealed that the pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation was the key conspirator behind the toolkit.

At a time when most of the global conversations happen on Twitter as the heads of several states release their statements and also express their views through Twitter, the micro blogging giant has become a platform of substance across the world. For example, when the Prime Minister Modi tweets, he tags presidents and heads of other nations. So, anything a leader of repute shares on Twitter, it instantly becomes an important topic for discussion.  While Twitter trends are indeed fascinating, some tweets are potent enough to trigger unrest across a nation. Increasingly some trending hashtags are being used to manipulate the real situation and create widespread hatred against a certain community or religion.

While the ongoing farmers protest demanding the repeal of the new farm laws, has already garnered international attention. Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg added fuel to the fire through her tweet. "We stand in solidarity with the #Farmers Protest in India," Thunberg tweeted. Her tweet came soon after international pop icon Rihanna shared a news article highlighting the Centre's crackdown on the farmers by cutting off internet services in many regions. International pop icon Rihanna, Vlogger Amanda Cerny, US Vice President Kamala Harris' niece Meena, former porn star Mia Khalifa, Indian-Canadian YouTube star Lilly Singh, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and many other international celebrities took to Twitter in solidarity with the protesting farmers.

As an influential activist Thunberg’s vituperative Tweet was enough to garner support across the world. But, she did not stop with her first tweet. The teenage activist shared a 'toolkit' for the protestors, which gave a detailed plan of action - from tweet-storms to participation in physical protests. The toolkit clearly explained about the agitation on January 26 including protesting outside Indian embassies.

As the toolkit created a furore across the nation, the government swung in to action and established the Khalistani conspiracy against India and claimed. Subsequently Delhi Police claimed Thunberg’s toolkit as the proof of protest. The Delhi Police zeroed in on three activists for collaborating with a pro-Khalistani group to create a toolkit to defame India across the globe that include young climate activist Disha Ravi, lawyer Nikita Jacob and Shantanu.  While Disha Ravi was arrested in Bengaluru,  non-bailable warrants were against two others.

The Delhi Police has claimed that while pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation is the key conspirator behind the toolkit, The Delhi Police said Disha Ravi, along with co-accused climate activist Shantanu Muluk, and lawyer Nikita Jacob were the creators and collaborators of a public document aimed at 'tarnishing India's image' in the backdrop of the farmers' agitation through 'social media strikes' and 'Twitter storms'.  All the three are "key conspirator" in the document's formulation and dissemination and Nikita Jacob was directly in touch with Khalistani elements and had attended a Zoom meeting with them recently.

While Disha Ravi was arrested   remanded to five-day police, Delhi Police issued a non-bailable warrant against Jacob and Muluk for their role in gathering support for the farmers’ protests on social media and sharing details with activists globally, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Both  Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, filed her anticipatory bail pleas and subsequently Bombay High Court granted a 10 day transit bail to engineer Shantanu Muluk and a 3 week relief to lawyer Nikita Jacob from arrest.

Opposition parties condemned the arrest of the 21year old Disha Ravi. Former Union minister and veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram claimed that India is becoming “the theatre of the absurd”. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister has said that Disha Ravi’s arrest was an unprecedented attack on democracy. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also demanded the release of Disha Ravi, through the hashtag ‘India being silenced’

While many condemned the arrest and demanded immediate release of Disha Ravi, the Delhi Police clearly exposed all the three of waging a “social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India” and also revealed copycat execution of the ‘action plan’ detailed in the tool kit”.

Delhi Police revealed that Thunberg’s tweeted  “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”  “Here’s a toolkit if you want to help” and in the same tweet, she shared a document titled, “Global Farmers Strike - First Wave”. The tweet also mentioned two accounts - @FFFIndia and @XRebellionInd. @FFFIndia is the Twitter handle belonging to Disha Ravi’s ‘Fridays For Future India’, The Indian chapter of the movement launched by Greta Thunberg in 2018 in which Disha Ravi is a key member. The handle @XRebellionInd, belongs to  Extinction Rebellion India, a movement started by Shantanu Muluk. .

Fridays for Future (FFF), also called ‘Youth Strike for Climate’, is an international movement of school students who skip Fridays classes to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to take action to prevent climate change. It has active local groups in 7,500 cities spanning across all the continents with more than 1 crore 40 lakh members. Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) is a global environmental movement with a total of 1145 groups in 75 countries which aims at nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.

Greta Thunberg reacted to the arrest of Disha Ravi, using the hash tag "StandWithDishaRavi",  Greta Thunberg said, "Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy". Fridays for Future India also tweeted in support of Disha Ravi and said, “Disha has been an integral part of this movement. Not only has she been voicing out environment concerns in India but strived for the equality and representation of the country's most affected and marginalized groups in the global climate movement's narrative,"

As the government of India gearing up keep a check on the so called activists who are propagating through social media and warning the micoblogging giant Twitter to abide by the rule of the land, it looks like that Twitter remains undeterred.Amidst the ongoing battle, Twitter banned the Prime Minister Modi’s tweet on the occasion of Chatrapathi Shivaji’s birth anniversary. It has shadow banned Modi’s tweet:

“Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj made a mark as a valorous warrior and an outstanding administrator. From building a strong navy to ushering several pro-people policies, he was outstanding in all spheres. He will always be remembered for his opposition to injustice and intimidation.”

The move has irked millions of Indians and that several complaints have surfaced that the microblogging website is shadow-banning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account. India’s parliamentary standing committee on information technology, has summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on 25 February to discuss ‘safeguarding the citizens’ rights’.

 Twitter is unleashing the power it enjoys across the globe and has gone too much. Is Twitter is too big to be banned by India? There are only four countries where Twitter is banned: China, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Iran. It looks like that soon may join the list. But, it will severely disrupt the digital life of the country which has a sizable youth population. It remains to be seen whether the government of India will go ahead in taking the drastic step or not.