- With over 100 million followers in social media, the American pop artist stirs political hornet’s nest.
In the ongoing tussle between the Indian farmers and the Modi government over agricultural reforms, protesting farmers have found a powerful sympathizer – pop icon Rihanna. Backing the ongoing farmers’ protest, Rihanna took to Twitter on Tuesday, to question the internet ban imposed in Haryana and parts of Delhi by the BJP governments.
Rihanna, who happens to be the fourth most-followed user on Twitter and has more than 100 million followers on Twitter, expressed her concerns by sharing a news report by CNN on India’s farmers’ protest and the government’s decision to cut internet services to the protesting farmers, the singer tweeted, “Why aren’t we talking about this?!”
Rihanna’s support, with her huge twitter following has great significance given her global appeal.
The ‘Umbrella’ crooner’s tweet caught the attention of the Indian twitterati, evoking reactions from fans and celebrity followers, causing her to trend on the platform. With over 241,000 tweets, Rihanna was trending at Number 1 spot in India on the site. Till 11:10 pm (IST), her tweet garnered 144,000 likes and over 70,000 retweets.
While some supported her statement, others said she shouldn’t be speaking about the affairs of another nation.
At least one Indian celeb took exception to Rihanna’s tweet. Retweeting Rihanna’s tweet, controversial Bollywood actor, Kangana Ranaut replied saying, “No one is talking about it because they are not farmers they are terrorists who are trying to divide India, so that China can take over our vulnerable broken nation and make it a Chinese colony much like USA. Sit down you fool, we are not selling our nation like you dummies.”
The Panga actress, Ranaut has been outspoken about her support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and her disdain for the protesting farmers.
Not everyone saw the tweet through the same lens. “Yes! Thank you so much Rihanna. This is a humanity issue! #IStandWithFarmers and this narrative is TIRED,” Canadian YouTuber, comedian, talk show host, and actress Lily Singh tweeted.
Sikh Coalition, a New York-based rights group, thanked Rihanna for casting more international spotlight on the subject.
“For over a week, the Indian government has been suspending internet services around #FarmersProtest sites in a clear affront to the freedom of speech,” it said on Twitter.
According to The Tribune, the internet services in the Delhi border areas of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri — epicenters of the farmers’ months-long protest against the Centre’s agriculture laws — were suspended on Saturday and the shutdown has been extended twice to be in force till at least 5 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2020.
A similar ban was imposed in parts of Delhi by the city police, which reports to Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Modi loyalist and Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah. The order by the Home Ministry had come over the weekend, days after sections of a tractor parade in Delhi by farmers on Republic Day strayed from agreed routes, triggering clashes with the police that left dozens injured and one protester dead.
Following the violence last week, new reports said that the Uttar Pradesh government had ordered the removal of protesters from Ghazipur — which lies on the Delhi-UP border. They were ordered to leave by Thursday night. Authorities have also dug up roads, erected massive, multi-layered barricades at several places to block farmers from reaching the heart of Delhi again. This crackdown has prompted bad press and triggered condemnation at home and abroad.
The Indian government has faced condemnation for its handling of the farmers’ protests. Twitter this week blocked hundreds of accounts for tweeting on the farmers’ protest.
They included CPI-M MP Mohammed Salim, news website The Caravan and Kisan Ekta Morcha, the organization representing protesting farmers, among others.
Rihanna isn’t the first celebrity to question the Indian government on the farmers’ protest. Hollywood actor John Cusack had also tweeted multiple times in solidarity with Indian farmers.
In January 2021, after President Trump lost his re-election bid, the outspoken Cusack, who had previously compared Modi to Hitler, had stated that he “hope(s) Modi goes the way of Trump sooner or later.” Cusack has also previously referred to as “the RSS guy” adding he was “literally trained up by open fascists,” as reported Friedrich.
Bollywood’s Sonam Kapoor and Bollywood/Hollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas had earlier extended support to the farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws. Other celebs such as Diljit Dosanjh, Dosanjh (who previously had entered into an online spat with Ranaut over farmer protests), Harbhajan Mann, Jasbir Jassi, Reitesh Deshmukh, director Hansal Mehta and others have also voiced their support to the protesting farmers.
Sihk farmers uniting uprising in New Delhi – wild story unfolding – pic.twitter.com/h9Dm2pPyrL— John Cusack (@johncusack) December 8, 2020
Enacted in September 2020, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector. However, the farmers along with the opposition parties allege that the farm laws were brought without any consultations with states and farmer unions and lacked national consensus.
In the wake of the enactment of these farm laws, thousands of protesting farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi borders for over two months, demanding the repeal of the laws, and a legal guarantee on minimum support prices (MSP) for their crops.
Moreover, these farmers have expressed their apprehension that these laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The close-knit Sikh community, which is spread around the world, has also organized protests in Australia, Britain and the United States in support of farmers in India.