World celebrities support farmers' protest, prompting Indian ire

·3-min read

Several international personalities including singers and activists have come out in support of Indian farmers who have been protesting against new farm laws. This flurry of media activity has not been received well by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After American pop singer Rihanna tweeted about the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, several other prominent international celebrities and activists have openly extended their support to the farmer-led movement against the government’s contentious new farm laws.

“Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Rihanna tweeted on Tuesday, along with the hashtag #FarmersProtest, eliciting a flood of response from her fan base of over 100 million followers.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on the outskirts of New Delhi for more than two months, demanding the withdrawal of new agricultural laws that they say benefit private buyers at the expense of growers.

The protests turned violent on January 26, India’s Republic Day, when farmers broke into the historic Red Fort complex, with one protester killed and hundreds injured.

An outpouring of support

Rihanna's tweet opened the floodgates with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, US lawyer and activist Meena Harris, the niece of Vice-President Kamala Harris, former adult film star Mia Khalifa, UK MP Claudia Webbe and a host of other personalities and politicians jumping in support of the farmers. Singer Jay Sean and actor John Cusack also turned their attention to the issue.

Meena Harris wrote: "We ALL should be outraged by India's internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters," linking the government response to rising fascism around the world.

American vlogger Amanda Cerny also took to social media to extend her support to the ongoing farmers' protest.

"The world is watching. You don't have to be Indian or Punjabi or South Asian to understand the issue. All you have to do is care about humanity. Always demand freedom of speech, freedom of press, basic human and civil rights-equity and dignity for workers,” Amanda wrote on Instagram.

Government pushback

Comments on social media and the traction it received, however, did not go well with the Indian government warning that the comments were “neither accurate nor responsible”.

“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand is undertaken,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The foreign office also said the Parliament of India passed the reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector, and noted that some of the vested interest groups have tried to mobilize international support against India.

"We would like to emphasize that these protests must be seen in the context of India's democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse," the statement added.

In response, several Indian film stars, cricket players and top ministers rallied around the government in its pushback using the hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda to make its point.

Home Minister Amit Shah was among those who used the two hashtags. "Propaganda cannot decide India's fate only 'Progress' can. India stands united and together to achieve progress," Shah tweeted.