The Maharashtra government on Monday said that it will investigate tweets by Indian celebrities in response to criticism of the government’s handling of the farmers’ protest by foreign personalities, NDTV reported.
“It has been revealed that there were same posts by celebrities and at the same time,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Desmukh said. “Hence it will be investigated why it has happened.”
The inquiry was ordered after leaders of the Maharashtra unit of Congress sought probe into whether the celebrities were under pressure from the Bharatiya Janata Party to tweet in support of the government, according to NDTV.
“The timing of all the tweets, and the coordinated manner in which they were sent out indicates a line of action and that this was planned,” Deshmukh said, according to News18.
Earlier during the day, Congress leader Sachin Sawant met Deshmukh to speak about the matter.
“The kind of response that the foreign ministry gave to [pop singer] Rihanna’s tweet was unprecedented,” Sawant told ANI. “Thereafter we saw several tweets from celebrities. It is fine if someone gives a personal opinion. But if you see the timing, content and context of these tweets, it seemed they were given a script.”
Sawant also pointed out that tweets by actor Akshay Kumar and badminton player Saina Nehwal were exactly the same, while another actor Suniel Shetty tagged a BJP leader in his tweet.
BJP leader and Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis criticised the decision to initiate an inquiry into this. “Has this MVA [Maha Vikas Aghadi] government lost all its senses,” he asked in a tweet. “MVA should feel ashamed while using the word ‘probe’ for Bharat Ratnas! Actually, now it seems necessary to probe the mental state and stability of the ones who made such demand and of people who ordered probe against our Bharat Ratnas.”
In another tweet, he termed the investigation as “disgusting” and “highly deplorable”.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Ashish Shelar wondered if the state home minister thinks before speaking, reported ANI. “Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar are not just celebrities, they’re Bharat Ratna recipients,” he said. “We condemn any inquiry into their chats. We want to ask Uddhav Thackeray ji, is he in sound mind?”
Last week, the Narendra Modi government and pop icon Rihanna got embroiled in an unlikely row on after the singer tweeted in support of the farmers protesting against the farm laws. 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.
A study has also shown that Indian celebrities engaged in collusive tweeting of two hashtags framed by the foreign ministry. Many of the tweets by them 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.