Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Meena Harris tweet on farmer protests, India bristles


India’s foreign ministry put out a strongly worded statement on Wednesday hours after a host of celebrities including pop star Rihanna, global climate activist Greta Thunberg and US Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece Meena Harris tweeted on the farmer protests raging in India for over 70 days.

Rihanna on Tuesday night tweeted a CNN article headlined: “India cuts internet around New Delhi as protesting farmers clash with police.” With the link, she commented: “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest.”

This was followed by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager famous for her environmental activism, tweeting: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”

Meena Harris, too tweeted on the farm protests, as part of a thread on rising fascist tendencies around the globe. “It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” she wrote.

In the thread, she wrote in another tweet: “Militant nationalism is just as potent a force in US politics as it is in India or anyplace else…”

Lebanese-American former pornographic actress Mia Khalifa also posted a picture of Indian women protesters with a comment: “What in the human rights violations is going on?! They cut the internet around New Delhi?! #FarmersProtest”

The Indian government reacted sharply against what it called “vested interest groups.”

Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken,” the statement by India’s ministry of external affairs said.

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

The Parliament of India, after a full debate and discussion, passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector,” the government claimed. “These reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming.”

The government said that “a very small section of farmers in parts of India” has “some reservations about these reforms.”

Respecting the sentiments of the protesters, the Government of India has initiated a series of talks with their representatives. Union Ministers have been part of the negotiations, and eleven rounds of talks have already been held. The Government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer iterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India.”

The ministry said: “Yet, it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them. This was egregiously witnessed on January 26, India’s Republic Day. A cherished national commemoration, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Constitution of India, was besmirched, and violence and vandalism took place in the Indian capital.”

The statement also sought to link the desecration of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Davis, California to the protests.

“Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India. Instigated by such fringe elements, Mahatma Gandhi statues have been desecrated in parts of the world. This is extremely disturbing for India and for civilised society everywhere,” the government said.

Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint. It may be noted that hundreds of men and women serving in the police have been physically attacked, and in some cases stabbed and seriously wounded.”

“We 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,” the government said.