After pop singer Rihanna made waves on Wednesday by tweeting about the situation in Delhi, there has been an outpouring of support from the international community for the farmer protests against the three agricultural laws.
Celebrities and activists from around the world extended their support to the farmers’ movement, with some outraging over the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the crisis.
“We stand in solidarity with the farmer protests in India,” wrote climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter, using the hashtag #FarmersProtest.
Thunberg shared a CNN article about the Centre’s decision to block internet services at three protest sites near Delhi borders, a favoured tactic of the Narendra Modi government to thwart protests. Internet was also suspended in districts of Haryana, following violence on Republic Day.
Thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the city for over two months, in a largely peaceful protest. Tensions arose on January 26, when a tractor rally by farmers turned chaotic. One protestor died and over 300 security personnel were injured in clashes between the protestors and police. The situation remains tense, with authorities extending the internet shutdown at the protest sites.
Rihanna had shared the same CNN article about the internet shutdowns that was tweeted by Thunberg, wondering why “we weren’t talking about this”. Within hours, her tweet went viral, with a section of social media users lauding her for speaking up at a time when many Bollywood celebrities have remained silent on the matter.
The singer’s tweets and the traction it received, however, did not go well with the central government.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement warning against the “temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” about the government’s new agricultural laws. The ministry said that the comments were “neither accurate nor responsible”, adding that the protests were by “a very small section of farmers” in parts of India.
Here’s a look at what foreign celebrities tweeted:
Comedian and YouTuber Lilly Singh thanked Rihanna for speaking up about what she called a “humanity issue”, and affirmed that she stood in solidarity with the farmers.
American climate activist Jamie Margolin, too, said she stood with the farmers of India, and urged her followers to support their protest.
Kenyan environment and climate activist and founder of the Green Generation Initiative Elizabeth Wathuti, while quoting a CNN article, wrote, “The big picture here is that India must begin to value the lives and well-being of its own citizens over the potential economic gains for its nation.”
United Kingdom MP Claudia Webbe thanked Rihanna for stepping forward “in an era where political leadership is lacking”. Solidarity to the Indian farmers, the British parliamentarian added.
Professor and writer Khaled Beydoun said he salutes Rihanna for bringing the much needed attention on the farmer protests – a movement that is being “silenced by Twitter and violently suppressed by the Modi government”.
Beydoun also criticised Twitter for the social media platform’s recent actions of temporarily blocking dozens of accounts in India including those of Caravan magazine and of farmers protesting near the Capital. The action was taken reportedly on the government’s request.
“Why hasn’t Narendra Modi or other BJP leaders been warned by Twitter for inciting violence against protestors and bystanders?” Beydoun asked, tagging the Indian prime minister’s official Twitter handle. “Twitter has suspended or withdrawn accounts of Indian activists for doing far less.”
Meena Harris, the niece of United States Vice President Kamala Harris, asserted that everyone should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protestors.
“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,” she wrote, referring to the storming of the US Capitol in January. “This is related.”
Global watchdog Human Rights Watch also shared Rihanna’s tweet on the farmer protests, noting that the Modi government “is presiding over a dangerous regression in free speech rights in pursuit of its Hindu nationalist agenda”.