Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris Show Support for India’s Farm Protest

February 3, 2021 Off By Pallavi Pundir

On the evening of Feb. 2, Indian social media woke up to a post breaking through the din of Twitter. Rihanna had just tweeted a news report about the Indian government cutting off the internet as farmers carried on their months-long protest in New Delhi. “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” the Barbadian singer tweeted to her 101 million followers. 

A few hours later, Swedish climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in solidarity with the farmers’ protest as well.

Next to tweet on this topic was Meena Harris, lawyer and niece of the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Militant nationalism is just as potent a force in US politics as it is in India or anyplace else. It can only be stopped if people wake up to the reality that FASCIST DICTATORS aren’t going anywhere. Not unless: 1) we organize and 2) THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE CAPITOL ATTACK,” she said on the same thread. 

Soon, the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs released a statement that reiterated its stand on the controversial laws and said that groups with “vested interests” are trying to mobilise international support against India. “We would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity,” it stated.

“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” it added.

The tweets by the global personalities over the last 24 hours have broken the Indian social media sphere, with many Indians applauding the tweets for bringing attention to the burning issue.

The tweets are also notable considering, on Feb. 1, Twitter temporarily blocked about 250 accounts and tweets of Indians who supported the farmers’ protest, or were reporting on it as journalists. A common thread among all the blocked tweets and accounts was that it criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The accounts have been restored. 

Most of the Indian mainstream media has been reporting a different narrative of the farmers’ movement, which sides with the Indian government’s point of view. 

Very few Indian celebrities have supported the farmers’ protest. Most of the support has come from actors and singers from the Punjab region, who also joined the protests

Some Bollywood personalities have taken to Twitter to downplay the protest. Indian actor Kangna Ranaut responded to Rihanna’s tweet and called the demonstrators “terrorists”. 

There were others, too, who didn’t like Rihanna’s vocal support. 

The farmer protests had been simmering since early last year after the Indian government proposed three controversial laws to reform the way farmers sell their produce. According to farmers groups leading the protest, these laws give big corporations and private players more power over them. 

The protests blew up when the government passed the bills on Sept. 20. Since then, thousands of farmers have been camping on three borders of New Delhi to demand revocation of the “unconstitutional” bills. 

To break the logjam, the government has proposed to put the laws on hold for 18 months, but the farmers’ unions have not budged.

On Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day, violence broke out in New Delhi during a tractor rally organised by farmers. Since then, dozens of farmer leaders and nine journalists have been charged and the internet cut off in several areas in and around New Delhi. 

Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.