The Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell has called certain websites, journalists, and “so called” fact-checkers as “potential allies” of the “conspirators” behind the clashes that broke out on January 26, at the Red Fort in Delhi. Police authorities had filed a First Information Report (FIR) against creators of the Google Drive document that was shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg. This FIR formed the basis on which the Delhi Police arrested Disha Ravi, a young environmental activist from Bengaluru, on February 14.
While the Delhi Police didn’t specifically name the websites, journalists, or fact-checking sites that it mentioned in the FIR, it has filed charges of sedition, promoting enmity on religious grounds, provoking riots, and criminal conspiracy against the websites and individuals. MediaNama has seen a copy of the FIR, which we received from a source close to the development, and its authenticity was confirmed by a senior Delhi Police official.
These “conspirators”, according to the FIR, are trying to wage an “economic warfare against India and certain Indian companies”. It also said that following the clashes on Republic Day, several social media handles spread rumours and fake news with an intention to commit riots, and “excite disaffection towards the Government of India”.
Delhi Police’s accusations against the ‘toolkit’
Last week, 22 year old activist Disha Ravi was arrested by the Delhi Police for sharing a Google Drive document with resources for participating in the ongoing farmer protests. Thunberg had shared the document on her Twitter handle. The Delhi Police’s claims that this “toolkit” was used to instigate violence in the country, and spread enmity.
However, the accusations made in the FIR do not explain how the “toolkit” was used to incite riots, and “wage an economic social cultural and regional war against India”. Some of the claims made in the FIR:
- The Google document urged people to find protests happening in their cities or states, and show their support by physically attending those protests.
- The document encouraged people to organise solidarity protests near Indian Embassies, or local government offices, and continue to organise such gatherings, since the protests aren’t going to end anytime soon.
- It urged people to record videos and take pictures to support the protest and to the same to protesters at the protest sites.
- The toolkit, per the FIR, said “Watch out for (or Join) the Farmers’ March/Parade (a first of its kind) into Delhi and back to the borders on 26th January”.
- The toolkit urged people to participate in “TweetStorms” in support of the farmers’ protest.
It is worth noting that toolkits are routinely used by civil society activists and others for coordinating protests against an issue. A large part of modern day campaigning takes place on social media, where it is natural to use hashtags for coordinated action. In fact, toolkits are not just used by activities, but by politicians themselves to achieve uniformity of messaging, as revealed by fact-checking site AltNews.
Social media monitoring
Before the Delhi Police began to investigate the actors behind the “toolkit”, it said that during its monitoring of social media it observed that there was a concerted effort by banned terror organisations such as Sikh For Justice (SFJ) to disrupt the Republic Day ceremony and “precipitate unlawful acts in the name of ongoing Farmer Protests”.
Following monitoring social media, the Delhi Police found that the SFJ had announced cash rewards for anyone hoisting seditious flags at the India Gate on Republic Day. “Through its multiple websites [SFJ] also made provocative and seditious appeals to people to file petitions in international forums such as UN to fulfil their seditious agenda in the garb of Farmers Protest,” the FIR added.