India on Wednesday described criticism by foreign celebrities and attempts to “mobilise international support against India on the government’s handling of the farmers’ protests without ascertaining facts” as “neither accurate nor responsible”. Here is what has prompted the response:
• The comments came after musician Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg, lawmakers in the US and UK, and several actors, activists and influencers sparked global clamour over the farmer issue.
• A statement from the external affairs ministry contended that “vested interest groups” were trying to enforce their agenda on the protests to derail them and have tried to mobilise global support against India.
• The statement referred to “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” by “celebrities and others” but did not name anyone.
• It is rare for the external affairs ministry to respond to tweets by foreign celebrities critical of events within the country, though it has, in recent weeks, pushed back against comments by leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and lawmakers in the UK and other countries supporting the farmers’ protest.
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• The ministry’s statement, for the first time, included two hashtags – #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.
• As protests against three contentious farm laws have snowballed, they have attracted attention around the world, including among celebrities and lawmakers.
• Though some celebrities who aren’t well known in India have made social media posts on the issue over the past few days, singer Rihanna was the most high-profile personality to take up the issue on Twitter on Tuesday.
• Rihanna has 101 million followers on Twitter and is among the highest-selling recording artistes in history
• She triggered a storm on Tuesday by tweeting “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest”, along with a link to a CNN article about the farmers’ protest that was also part of a subsequent tweet on Wednesday by 18-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
• Thunberg tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”
• The tweet was both supported and criticised by sections within India.
• India’s foreign ministry said in response to these statements that it “would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse”.
• Union home minister Amit Shah wrote on Twitter: “No propaganda can deter India’s unity! No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights! Propaganda cannot decide India’s fate only ‘Progress’ can. India stands united and together to achieve progress.”
• External affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted: “Motivated campaigns targeting India will never succeed. We have the self confidence today to hold our own. This India will push back.”
• James Costa, a Democratic congressman who serves on the influential US house foreign affairs committee, too supported the farmers’ right to protest.
• Since last month, US actor John Cusack, a group of 36 lawmakers in the UK and a spokesperson for UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres have backed the farmers’ protest and taken up the matter on social media and other forums.
• Indian celebrities Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Karan Johar and Suniel Shetty said citizens should focus on the government’s efforts to resolve the ongoing farmer crisis rather than paying attention to “half truths” and those creating differences.
• Former Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar too tweeted: “India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation.”