The usual suspects that include the political opposition, section of the media, and opinion makers, are rallying behind Disha Ravi. Disha Ravi has been arrested for her alleged role in hatching a conspiracy against India by being part of a leaked toolkit that details how to use India’s farmers’ protest to disrupt India.
Some newspapers and media people went on to describe how a 21-year-old ‘climate change activist’ is being silenced.
One need not be a ‘constitutional expert’ to understand that those allegedly involved in conspiracy against the nation should face the law of the land irrespective of gender, educational qualification, ideology etc. What is certainly noticeable is that a similar attempt was made to show a terrorist killed by soldiers as ‘son of a school-teacher’. All and sundry reasons are used to support people who claim themselves as ‘activists’.
The arguments of usual suspects in the Disha Ravi case are not isolated. Whether it is farmers’ issue, environment, or economy, the usual suspects increasingly put-up false heroes to corner the government. But if you look at the government in recent years, it is actually honouring the heroes who have worked on the ground in the matters of environment, farming etc.
It is just that usual suspects and media may not find these real heroes suited to their narrative and ‘glamour quotient’.
Climate Activists vs India’s Real Heroes
For the usual suspects, aandolanjeevis are the heroes when it comes to the issue of climate change.
See the example of Greta Thunberg. Did this kid do any remarkable thing on the ground that has added value to the environment? No such instances can be cited. Her claim to fame is a speech where she questioned world leaders on climate change. That’s fine. But what does she do beyond speeches and tweets? Even in her speech and advocacy, has she maintained logical consistency?
Well, the activist speaks about carbon emission while flying in airplanes that emit high carbon emissions. It is proved that water-intensive crops are detrimental to environment, but this ‘environmental activist’ supports such practices in the name of supporting farmers.
This applies to Disha Ravi whose claim of ‘activism’ is that she loves dog, is vegan, and is involved in environment sloganeering on Fridays.
Before the Modi era, these kinds of ‘activists’, who can manage media space very well, used to get government honours as well.
Now see who the government is honouring through civilian awards.
In contrast, think of Salumarada Thimmakka. A noted environmentalist from Karnataka, she is known for planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of a state highway between Hulikal and Kudur. Having been born into a small village and with no formal education, Thimmakka with the help of her husband found solace in planting trees. Modi government, taking note of her contributions to the environment, conferred Padma Shri award on Thimmakka in 2019.
In 2015, Jadav Payeng who grew forest on a 550-hectare sandbar in the middle of the river Brahmaputra was honored with a Padma award.
Daripali Ramaiah who attained fame for having planted millions of saplings in and around Khammam district of Telangana awarded Padma in 2017.
Let’s look at the present hero of farmers agitation Rakesh Tikait. Did he bring any innovation in farming to enrich his profile? No, his profile is about series of failed political ambitions which we covered in our article Is This Leader of Farmers’ Union Trying to Ward Off His Responsibility for Provoking Violence in Delhi?.
Some reports claim that Rakesh Tikait owns wealth worth ₹80 crore. In his election affidavit in 2014 he shown ₹4 crore worth of assets. It is not an argument that wealthy people should not talk about farmers. But the issue is that it is a bit rich to demand subsidy and concessions while representing the wealthy.
Now, let’s see who the government considers heroes in farming and honoured.
106 year-old organic farmer Pappammal who is doing Organic cultivation in her 2.5 acres of farms by cultivating millets, vegetables, corn etc was conferred with a Padma award this year.
Prem Chand Sharma from Uttarakhand who has the credit of diversifying farming in the state by growing high-quality fruits, vegetables, and grains organically also received a Padma award.
In 2019, 12 farmers were awarded Padma awards for their work in the sphere of organic farming, traditional seed conservation and use of scientific methods in cultivation.
These are just some examples. However, the point increasingly evident is that the government is recognising heroes with credentials, while those who lecture India about farming, climate change etc are nothing more than talking heads and agenda pushers in the name of activism. These celebrity activists, who thrive in urban comforts among English-speaking elite are clearly bereft of any grassroots connection.