- Backlash by compliant Indian celebrities is further fueling the publicity garnered by the American pop icon’s tweet which has already inspired climate change activist Greta Thunberg to express solidarity with Indian farmers.
A day after international pop icon Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg drew attention and offered support to the farmers’ protest, Indian politicians, Bollywood stars and cricketers responded by putting out tweets with the hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether.
Rihanna has also been branded “irresponsible” by India after the singer drew attention to ongoing farmers’ protests in the country.
On Tuesday, Rihanna, using #FarmersProtest expressed her concerns over the farmers’ agitation in India by sharing a news report by CNN on protests and the government’s decision to cut internet services to the protesting farmers and tweeted: “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest.”
The pop superstar’s tweet to her 101 million followers shot her to the top of social media trends in India, drawing a global outpouring of support.
Soon afterwards, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”
Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris also tweeted support for the farmers. “It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protestors.”
Their widely shared tweets went viral, garnering thousands of responses – support and condemnation from the Indian government.
Following their tweets, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday said it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on the protests and derail them, as reported by Firstpost.
The MEA statement noted that the Parliament of India had passed “reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector after a full debate and discussion … Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken,” the statement said.
It further added, “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”
Home Minister and Modi loyalist, Amit Shah tweeted, “No propaganda can deter India’s unity! No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights! Propaganda cannot decide India’s fate only ‘Progress’ can. India stands united and together to achieve progress. #IndiaAgainstPropaganda #IndiaTogether.”
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also tweeted: “Motivated campaigns targeting India will never succeed. We have the self-confidence today to hold our own. This India will push back. #IndiaTogether#IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”
Similarly, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharman tweeted: ““Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken.” #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”
A number of other celebrities also chimed in on social media, stating that citizens should focus on the government’s efforts to resolve the crisis. Sharing the MEA statement on Twitter, actor Akshay Kumar tweeted: “Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”
Actor, producer Ajay Devgn urged people to be wary of “false propaganda against India or Indian policies … Don’t fall for any false propaganda against India or Indian policies. It’s important to stand united at this hour w/o any infighting. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda,” Devgn tweeted.
Karan Johar, in a lengthy note, tweeted that the country should not let “anyone divide us”.
Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar and Shikhar Dhawan also tweeted, condemning the international support to the farmers’ protest.
Agriculture is a very important part of the machinery of the Indian economic system. Farmers are the backbone of any country’s ecosystem. This is an internal matter which I’m sure will be resolved through dialogue. Jai Hind! #IndiaStandsTogether #IndiaAgainstPropoganda,” tweeted Indian cricket team manager and former all- rounder Ravi Shastri.
Former Indian skipper and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar tweeted, “India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”
But not all saw Rihanna’s tweet as intrusive and irresponsible.
Celebs such as actress-model Shibani Dandekar came out in support of Rihanna’s tweet by sharing it in her Instagram story. Celebrities like Richa Chadha and Hansal Mehta also chimed in with their support.
Markandey Katju, Indian jurist and former Supreme Court judge of India who served as chairman for the Press Council of India, tweeted, “Many people, including the Indian External Affairs Ministry, have criticised the famous singer Rihanna for having supported the Indian farmers, saying it is the internal affair of India.
But by that logic, no one outside Germany should have criticised the persecution of the Jews in Germany during the Nazi era.
By that logic no one outside Pakistan should criticise the persecution of Ahmadis, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians in Pakistan.
By that logic no one outside India should criticise the lynching and other atrocities on Muslims in India, or the massacre of Sikhs in 1984.
By that logic nobody outside America should criticise racialism in several parts of America and bad treatment of blacks.
By that logic no one outside China should criticise the persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority in China.
By that logic no one outside South Africa should have condemned apartheid and denial of the right to vote to blacks in South Africa when apartheid was prevailing.
By that logic no one outside Burma should have criticised the persecution of Rohingyas in Burma.
After all, these were all internal affairs of those countries.”
India suspended mobile internet services in three areas around the capital, Delhi, where tens of thousands of farmers are camping to protest against the new laws.
The government said the shutdown was to “maintain public safety.”
The farmer protest made international headlines last week when a tractor rally by farmers ended in violent clashes that left one protester dead and more than 500 police injured, according to the authorities.
Some demonstrators stormed Delhi’s historic Red Fort and occupied it until police pushed them back. Farmers’ groups and union leaders condemned the violence but said they would not call off the protest.
The farmers’ protest, now in its third month, presents the biggest challenge Prime Minister Modi has faced. His BJP government has offered to suspend the laws but the farmers want them repealed.
The authorities are extremely sensitive to criticism and, on Monday, Twitter restored dozens of Indian accounts that were earlier blocked after a legal notice by the government, citing objections based on public order.
The accounts included those of farmers’ leaders, activists and a respected news magazine.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.