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Indian Court gives bail to Disha Ravi, activist arrested over farmers’ protests

An Indian court on Tuesday granted bail to a climate activist accused of rioting after distributing a document to help protesting farmers organize.

The case of the activist, Disha Ravi, 21, is the latest test of India’s judicial independence amid a turn against nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose agricultural policy is at the heart of a month – long protest by the country’s farmers.

Mrs Ravi was arrested at her home in the southern city of Bangalore on 13 February. She was later accused of distributing an online instruction manual known as a “toolkit”

; in the form of a Google Doc with talking points and contact information to influential groups. Authorities say it led to violence during a protest in Delhi last month.

Her arrest led to anger from former police officers, retired officials and public intellectuals who accused Mr. Modi’s government to use the country’s law enforcement agencies to target political opponents.

Thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of the capital since November to protest a slate new laws that would dismantle a subsidy system that for decades has protected them from the weaknesses of the free market.

Although the protests have been largely peaceful, violence erupted on January 26 in New Delhi. Dozens of farmers and police officers were injured and one person was killed.

Mrs Ravi’s activism was previously associated with the climate movement started by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The toolkit, which international activists say is a widely distributed document, was brought to the attention of the Indian authorities after Mrs Thunburg tweeted it in solidarity with Indian farmers.

Delhi police, who are investigating the violence during the protest on January 26, said the aim of the document was to spread unrest and “defame” the country.

“If highlighting farmers’ protests globally is agitation,” Ravi told the court, “I’m better off in prison.”

On Tuesday, Judge Dharmender Rana of the Delhi Sessions Court said there was little reason to detain Ms Ravi and questioned the prosecution’s logic in linking the toolkit and the violence.

The judge set Mrs Ravi’s bail at around 100,000 rupees, equivalent to $ 1,370, on the condition that she remain in Delhi.

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