The Congress on Thursday mocked the Narendra Modi government for hitting back at foreign personalities who criticised the crackdown on farmers protests. The Opposition party said the damage done to India’s global image by the Centre’s “obduracy and undemocratic behaviour” cannot be remedied by propaganda.
The government and pop icon Rihanna got embroiled in an unlikely row on Wednesday after the singer tweeted in support of the farmers protesting against the new reforms. Rihanna’s tweet drew global attention to the protests as prominent Western personalities echoed her support for the farmers’ movement.
Following the international condemnation, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement calling the tweets a “sensationalist” attempt by “vested groups” to intervene in India’s internal matters.
Shortly after, actors, celebrities and sports stars, many of whom have long been silent on the farmer protests, began tweeting in one voice. Among them were cricketing stars Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Ravi Shastri. They used hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether coined by the foreign ministry, and wrote identical messages in support of the laws.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it was embarrassing to the see the government trying to amplify its position through celebrities. “For GoI [government of India] to get Indian celebrities to react to Western ones is embarrassing,” he wrote on Twitter. “The damage done to India’s global image by GoI’s obduracy and undemocratic behaviour can’t be remedied by a cricketer’s tweets.”
P Chidambaram said it was good that Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg could “wake up” the Ministry of External Affairs. “Come on MEA, when will you realise that people concerned with issues of human rights and livelihoods do not recognise national boundaries?” he asked in a tweet.
He also mocked the government for calling everything an “internal matter” of the country.
“Why did MEA comment on the military coup in Myanmar,” he questioned. “Why is it ‘deeply concerning’ to the MEA? Why does MEA regularly comment on issues that are ‘internal’ to Sri Lanka and Nepal. Why did the PM of India comment on the assault on the Capitol building in Washington by the Trump stormtroopers?”
Chidambaram added that it was “sad that someone erudite and worldly wise like S Jaishankar should allow such puerile reactions” by the foreign ministry.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill, meanwhile, wondered why the foreign ministry had not issued a “strong worded outburst document” calling out China. “When are on-screen macho men and sportspersons (copy paste) tweeting condemning China’s misadventures? Or will it require Kanye West tweeting on China?”
The official handle of the Congress, too, mocked the government by quoting Rihanna’s hit Love the Way You Lie.
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