India fumes after Rihanna, Greta back protesting farmers

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar, India, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- Pop superstar Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and several global celebrities tweeting to support protesting Indian farmers sparked angry government reaction Wednesday over “neither accurate nor responsible” comments by foreign individuals.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on the outskirts of the Indian capital, New Delhi, for the last nearly three months against new farm laws.

The protesters allege the new laws will benefit big businesses and leave agricultural workers at their mercy.

The government says that the new agricultural reforms would help farmers and make the sector more efficient and competitive.

The demonstrations have been peaceful but turned violent on Jan.26, when the protesters drove their tractors into the capital to hold a parallel republic day march in Delhi.

Police later barricaded the capital and snapped internet connectivity in the areas where the protesters have been on unending sit-ins.

Rihanna, with more than 101 million followers on Twitter, wrote Tuesday “why aren’t we talking about this”, with the “FarmersProtest” hashtag.

In her tweet, the superstar posted a link to an article about a crackdown on farmers by the government.

Nearly 20 hours after her tweet, the comment was retweeted more than 244,000 times and liked by over half a million Twitter users.

A few international celebrities also tweeted in support of the Indian farmers.

These include Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, actor Lilly Singh, singer Jay Sean, vlogger Amanda Cerny and Meenakshi Harris, the niece of United States Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India.

Thunberg tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”

She also posted the story about the Indian internet blackout to thwart the demonstration.

Harris said it was 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 protesters,” she said.

The celebrity tweets sparked a Twitter tempest in India, with pro-government celebrities and online handles lashing out at them for meddling in India’s internal affairs.

A foreign ministry statement said “vested interest groups” were enforcing their agenda on the protests to derail them, and were now trying to mobilize international support.

The statement further stressed that foreign celebrities needed “a proper understanding of the issues” concerning India.

“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the ministry said.

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