Rihanna creates frenzy in India with tweet on farmer protests

Staff reporter

Pop celebrity Rihanna creates frenzy in India by paddling into the months-long demonstrations by Indian farmers facing new farm laws legislated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has hurled international celebrities for their “inaccurate” comments.

Tens of thousands of young and old farmers have blocked roads heading into New Delhi for longer than two months, hiding in tractors from the cold, to demand the withdrawal of three legislations passed in September last year, which farmers say will finish their livelihoods by bringing India’s vast agricultural sector under corporate control.

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A tractor demonstration by farmers last week in New Delhi became severe, killing one and injuring hundreds, including police officers.

Police reacted by shutting down the internet, digging ditches, driving nails into roads and topping barricades with razor wire to prevent farmers from entering the capital again.

It was not instantly clear what led Rihanna, whose songs have performed well in India, to quickly tweet on the subject.

Following Rihanna’s tweet, Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg also posted the same CNN article, displaying solidarity with India’s protesting farmers.

“We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India,” Thunberg tweeted to her 4.6 million followers.

“Increasingly in Modi’s India, independent institutions including investigators, prosecutors, and the courts, which should be impartially defending rights, are instead protecting government supporters and targeting its critics,” the rights group said in a statement on Tuesday.

“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. This is related. We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” the 36-year-old tweeted, with a photo of women protesters.

India on Wednesday scrutinised the international celebrities for making remarks in support of protesting farmers as incorrect and irresponsible and said vested interest groups were trying to build judgment against the country.

“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 Indian foreign ministry said.

“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”

As Rihanna trended on Twitter in India, a Mumbai-based actress who backs India’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also lashed out at the famous singer.

“No one is talking about it because they are not farmers, they are terrorists who are trying to divide India …” Kangana Ranaut told her three million followers on the same platform.

The months-long protests are led by turban-wearing Sikh farmers from the wheat and rice-growing state of Punjab in India’s north.

The close-knit community, which is spread around the world, has also organised protests in Australia, Britain and the US.

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.

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