A study has shown that Indian celebrities engaged in collusive tweeting of two hashtags framed by the Ministry of External Affairs – #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether – in response to the global criticism of the government’s handling of the farmers’ protests.

The Indian celebrities, including former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, took to Twitter on February 3 after international personalities such as pop singer Rihanna and climate change activist Greta Thunberg expressed support for the farmers protests.

Many of the tweets by the Indian celebrities had similar wording and phrases.

The study titled “Rihanna versus Bollywood: Twitter Influencers and the Indian Farmers’ Protest” said that the tweets by the Indian celebrities came in three batches – actors tweeting in the morning, cricketers in the afternoon and mixed group in the evening. The study was conducted by researchers Dibyendu Mishra, Syeda Zainab Akbar, Arshia Arya, Saloni Dash, Rynaa Grover and Joyojeet Pal.

“In general, sportspersons [were] more likely to lean towards the government position,” Joyojeet Pal, one of the reaserchers said in a tweet. “Cricketers [were] almost uniformly on the government side or neutral. Two major sportspersons who came out against [the trend] were [badminton player] Jwala Gutta and [cricketer] Irfan Pathan.”

Rihanna’s tweet resulted in a spate of hate speech against her. The study said that the most common form of trolling was on gender lines, followed by her race/ethnicity and then her nationality.

The study said that misinformation for both in support or against the farm laws was amplified following the events. “The narratives further turned insidious when the farmers were falsely depicted to be pro-Khalistan members,” the study pointed out. “Various photographs were seen to be photoshopped and recontextualized to depict farmers as anti-India sloganeers.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also targeted for his percieved proximity to industrialists. “He was portrayed in relation to the Adanis and Ambanis, where he is depicted bowing to Priti Adani in seeming obeisance or visiting a grandchild of the Ambani family,” the study showed. “Another set of debunked stories related to Narendra Modi falsely showed the people of the Sikh community disrespecting him.”

Read the entire study here.