The family of Disha Ravi, the 22-year-old climate activist who was arrested by the Delhi police in connection with the ‘toolkit’ or a Google open source document on the farmers’ protest on Sunday, has clarified that she is Hindu, after hundreds of tweets claimed that her actual name is “Disha Ravi Joseph” and claimed she is a Christian. Dismissing these claims, her family has said that her full name is Disha Annappa Ravi.
Prasanna R, a lawyer and close friend of Disha's family, told TNM, "Her mother's name is Manjula Nanjaiah, father is Ravi Annappa. They are from Tiptur in Tumkur district of Karnataka."
While debunking the fake theory made on Twitter to try to discredit Disha, Prasanna also added that it does not and should not matter what religion Disha belongs to. “Disha's religious identity does not matter here. How is it relevant if she is Christian or Hindu? She is a nature lover and had friends from all over. She has not followed any religion though she was brought up in a Lingayat household. It is unfortunate that we have to debunk this cooked up religious identity that is being used to spread hatred further,” he added.
One of Disha's friends told TNM, "Her name is Disha A Ravi and I can't believe this is a conversation that needs to happen. It should not matter if someone belongs to a particular religion or caste. She is an Indian who believes in all of us coming together for the greater good and progress of this nation and us as humanity."
Disha’s family also sought to debunk claims on Kannada media that she received foreign funds for her volunteering work. "There are so many obnoxious lies being spread about Disha. Kannada channels are you even saying that she received foreign funds. All these can be disproved easily, but channels are spreading lies,” Prasanna added.
One of Disha’s friends, who regularly works with her in conducting cleanup drives and tree-planting drives in Bengaluru, said that the volunteers would manage their expenses themselves. “We manage Splitwise accounts and even share the costs of buying material like chart paper and colour,” said her friend.
“Disha Ravi Joseph” was trending on Twitter in India on Wednesday morning with hundreds of tweets claiming that Disha Ravi is a “Syrian Christian from Kerala” and that she and Nikita Jacob, against whom a non-bailable warrant has been issued by the Delhi police in the same case, are “working together to conspire against India.” As of 10 am, there were over 10,000 tweets under this trend.
One of the tweets with misinformation about her name has over 9,000 likes and 3,000 retweets.
Prashant Patel Umrao, a Supreme Court lawyer, who is known for tweeting unverified claims and false news, also shared the fake claim on Twitter. Later, he deleted the tweet. Here is a screenshot:
Geez! But what if her name is 'Disha Ravi Joseph'? Christians in India can't protest now? And what if she is single mother? Single mothers aren't allowed to speak up?— Neelima Vallangi (@NVallangi) February 17, 2021
Ad hominem is the lowest form of attack, only used by idiots who have nothing to say about the matter at hand. https://t.co/Ju1gjaTc8c
Following her arrest, multiple imposter Twitter accounts have also emerged claiming to be connected to Disha Ravi. However, people close to Disha confirmed that no one in her family is posting tweets on any Twitter account in her name.
One particular Twitter handle - @climatedisha - has over 6,000 followers and over 24,000 likes on one of the tweets. The handle first claimed that it was Disha Ravi’s sister even though Disha is a single child. The handle later claimed that it was her cousin. This too was denied by Disha’s friends and family.
Told by multiple people close to Disha Ravi that no one in her family are tweeting from any Twitter account. Many imposter accounts have been set up in her name and have racked up thousands of followers. Please report this account. https://t.co/jTDBHF5SsY— Prajwal (@prajwalmanipal) February 16, 2021
This is not the first false claim made against Disha Ravi. Earlier, Times Now misreported that Disha is a ‘single mother,’ a claim that was debunked by Alt News. On the condition of anonymity, Disha’s high-school friend told Alt News on a telephonic call, “The social media claim that Disha is a single mother is false.”
Disha's arrest is the first by the Delhi police in connection with the Greta toolkit case. Toolkits are nothing but Google Docs or online word documents that contain basic information on any issue, tweet suggestions and information on what hashtags to use and whom to tag on social media, and are a regular inventory while organising protests online. Various forms of toolkits are also used by social media teams of political parties as well when they need to plan a particular social media campaign. In this case however, the police have alleged that the toolkit was made by “Khalistanis” with an intention to “wage war against India.” Those who worked with Disha at Fridays for Future have, however, reiterated that young Indian activists amplifying information about protests and causes in India to an international audience is nothing unusual.