Hashtag #At 21 turns battleground of opposing tweets
Chidambaram, Kejriwal back young activist Disha Ravi, BJP gen secy Santhosh questions her motives
The arrest of 21-year-old ‘climate activist’ Disha Ravi by the Delhi police from her residence in Bengaluru in connection with the Greta Thunberg toolkit case and her remand to 5-day custody has stirred a hornet’s nest on social media, with several prominent persons on opposing sides of the digital barricade. Opposition party leaders like former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have backed the young activist whereas those critical of her have pitched in with their views on what should/should not be done at the age of 21. In fact, the hashtag ‘At 21’ has started trending on Twitter and has attracted more than 1.49 million tweets!
The former Union minister, tweeting from his official handle on February 14 at 10.13 pm, said, “The Indian state must be standing on very shaky foundations if Disha Ravi, a 22-year- old student of Mount Carmel College and a climate activist, has become a threat to the nation.
“A ‘took kit’ to support the farmers’ protest is more dangerous than the intrusion by Chinese troops into Indian territory! India is becoming the theatre of the absurd and it is sad that the Delhi police has become a tool of the oppressors.
“I strongly condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi and urge all students and youth to raise their voices to protest against the authoritarian regime…”
“#ReleaseDishaRavi,” Chidambaram concluded in a third tweet.
Condemning the arrest, the Delhi Chief Minister tweeted from his official handle @ArvindKejriwal at 9.55 am on February 15, “Arrest of 21-yr-old Disha Ravi is an unprecedented attack on democracy. Supporting our farmers is not a crime.”
The amount of support garnered by Disha Ravi from opposition parties has inevitably led to a backlash from the ruling party, with BJP leaders alleging that the farmers’ protest is turning into a ‘civil rights movement’.
BJP National General Secretary (Org) B L Santhosh, in a succession of three tweets at 11.20 am on February 15, said, “Bengaluru Greta Thunberg, vegan, sole breadwinner, student, 21 years old, passionate activist … so many attempts to whitewash a sin …!! Not one anarchist ready to answer the question… How a 21-year-old student got access to edit #toolkit.
“Suddenly #FarmProtests has turned into a civil rights movement…climate activism…civil liberties movement…food security agitation…!!! Sooner the farmers & farmers’ leaders understand that they are taken for a ride, better for them & nation.
“21 year old…environment activist… student…Are these credentials for becoming a part of breaking India forces…? How does she get access for editing tool kit…? Why is she part of anti-national WhatsApp groups…? Many questions…But only one answer…21-year-old…!!,” he concluded.
At 21 goes viral
Thanks to the publicity given to Disha’s case, the hashtag #At 21 is circulating like hot cakes on Twitter and has already garnered a following of 1.49 million twitterati. One of them, Major Shailendra Singh @MAJORshailendra, tweeted, “At 21 years! I was an Indian Army officer.”
Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted from @gssjodhpur, “If age is the criteria, then Param Veer Chakra Second Lt Arun Khetarpal, martyred at 21, is who I am proud of. Not some #toolkit propagandists!”
Journalists pitch in!
It’s not just political leaders, even journalists have taken the Twitter route. Senior journalist Faye DSouza@fayedsouza criticised the arrest, saying (tongue-in-cheek), “This is when all parents will now tell their college-going children to avoid all protests, activism and citizen involvement.”
Prashanth, Editor, http://samvadaworld.com @pvaidyaraj, countered Faye’s tweet with, “Aren’t ‘students’ supposed to study well and work towards building careers? Or were you taught that being a student meant to indulge in protests, activism and anti-national activities?”
Another senior journalist, Abhijit Majumder@abhijitmajumder, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of http://earshot.in, tweeted, “At 21, I was writing for magazines and papers, besides studying for a career. I was not editing toolkits for separatists and foreign forces to destabilise my nation.”
Another noted journalist Savio Rodrigues, founder and Editor-in-Chief @goachronicle, tweeted, “At 21, I decided to come back to India. Not knowing what I wanted to do but knew I wanted to make a difference.”