On Monday morning Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij tweeted that all those with “seeds of anti nationalist thought… should be destroyed“, and referred specifically to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, whom Delhi Police has accused of sedition and conspiracy – on the back of her editing an online document connected to the farmers’ protest against the centre’s agriculture laws.
Mr Vij’s controversial tweet was widely condemned and briefly deleted by Twitter after a complaint from Germany, before the social media giant – which faces questions in this country over handling of extreme speech – said it had been investigated and was “not subject to removal“.
This afternoon Mr Vij defended his tweet, claiming that he did not mean to say that those who had “seeds of anti-nationalist thought” (such as Disha Ravi) should be “destroyed”. They need, he continued, to be “purified” of their “anti-national mindset”.
“I didn’t call for the destruction of those people… I called for the destruction of the thought process which is against the nation. We just want to purify thoughts… I talked about the destruction of seeds sown to harbour such thought process,” Anil Vij said.
“These people are educated from English schools. They don’t understand Hindi,” he added, laughing off criticism over his shocking tweet.
“… all who are anti-national should be found,” he said, while also adding, “I am not against dissent… it’s a part of democracy.”
Mr Vij also pointed out that Twitter – whom the centre has threatened with legal action if it doesn’t delete over 1,000 accounts in connection with the farmers’ protest – had restored his tweet.
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) February 15, 2021
“Twitter said the same thing – ‘There’s nothing wrong with it’…,” he said
Monday’s tweet also led to an police complaint against the BJP leader – filed by a group called Campaign Against Hate Speech in Bengaluru.
Mr Vij dismissed a potential FIR against him, saying: “If somebody wants to file an FIR, we will see.”
Ms Ravi was arrested Sunday in connection with an online document – later also tweeted by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg – relating to the farmers’ protest.
The police allege Ms Ravi was a key conspirator and, in an attempt to revive a Khalistani group, prepared and spread the document that is meant to “spread disaffection against the Indian state”.
Ms Ravi’s arrest trigged widespread outrage – both for the targeting of a climate activist and the apparent disregard of due process; the latter charge was firmly denied by the police.
Ms Ravi, who argued her case after she did not have access to legal counsel, told the court: “I did not make the Toolkit. We wanted to support the farmers. I edited two lines on February 3.”
She was yesterday sent to five days of police custody.
The police have also named Nikita Jacob, a lawyer, and Shantanu Muluk, an activist, in this case.