On 19 January, Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai-based writer and researcher, announced a week-long call to action against the Adani Group by over 25 environmental youth organisations across the world, on a website called Adani Watch. Jayaraman’s post was titled, “Youth Action to Stop Adani – 27 January to 2 February,” and stated that “YAStA is a call to action by youth groups from around the world to Stop Adani from subverting democracies, suppressing community voices, harassing its critics.” Four days later, the Adani Group posted an “open letter” on its official Facebook page, claiming it had been “targeted through false propaganda.” While it was unclear whether the conglomerate had posted in anticipation of YAStA or provoked by something else, it is indisputable that India’s young environmental groups have left an indelible mark on the nature of climate activism in the country.
YAStA was supported by a wide coalition of groups—these included, to name a few, Fridays for Future India, Chennai Climate Action Group, Extinction Rebellion India, Let India Breathe and Yugma Network. These groups mobilised the public for weeks ahead of the scheduled date, urging people to participate in the global movement through their social-media pages. The action week comprised various online events, including a video screening of statements by individuals affected by Adani project sites in India and Australia, a playlist of songs of resistance and hope curated from across the world, a masterclass on art and activism, a documentary film festival on corporate crime, and a Q&A session with the writer Amitav Ghosh on climate fiction.
In recent years, a new wave of youth-led climate justice and environment-focused movements has brought fresh vigour and new tools, such as online activism and social-media mobilisation, in the struggle against environmental degradation. “The fact that the Adani group had to put out these statements shows that they had taken notice of what we were doing,” an activist involved in the YAStA campaign, who asked to remain anonymous, told me. Jayaraman, who is a member of a Chennai-based environmental group called the Vettiver Collective, told me, “In recent years, there has been an uptick in politicised young people joining communities across the country struggling against coal mining, deforestation and wetlands destruction.” He added, “Youth activists helped amplify the voices and this is what the government is uncomfortable with.” As various movements led by such youth groups in the country have shown, young climate activists are very comfortable putting state and central governments as well as corporate giants under pressure.