The Indian government was angered by pop singer Rihanna who tweeted support and drew worldwide attention to the farmer protest in the country, accusing “foreign individuals” and celebrities of “sensationalism”.
Rihanna wrote in her tweet: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” while linking to a news story on the farmer’s protest which turned violent last week.
Hours after the singer’s tweet to her 101 million followers, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and the US vice president’s niece Meena Harris also tweeted support for the farmers.
Their widely shared tweets went viral, garnering thousands of responses.
The Indian government appeared to be angered by the celebrity attention on the protests, and in an unusual step, issued a statement saying “the temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible”.
Rihanna’s tweet on Tuesday also linked to a news story about the internet blockade at the protest sites.
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 saying the shutdown was necessary to “maintain public safety”.
The 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 pop superstar’s tweet to her millions of followers sent her name to the top of social media trends in India. Her post drew a global outpouring of support.
There were many who also criticised the singer for wading into the protests against the laws that have been defended by the government and its supporters.
The farmers’ protest, now in its third month, presents the biggest challenge Mr. 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 His BJP government has offered to suspend the laws but the farmers want them repealed.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.
The contentious farm laws loosen rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce which have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades.
Farmers fear that the new laws will threaten decades-old concessions – such as assured prices – and weaken their bargaining power, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by private companies. (Source: BBC)