After months of battling the cold and chilly weather, the hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting in Delhi and elsewhere in India found a moment of respite online with unexpected shoutouts from the likes of pop star Rihanna and environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg.
Other personalities with global followings quickly joined them in drawing attention protests against three farm laws passed hurriedly by the Narendra Modi government in September 2020.
The online storm of support began with Robyn Rihanna Fenty, a Barbadian singer, actress, and businesswoman.
On Tuesday (2 Feb), she tweeted the following terse message to her more than 100 million followers: “Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest.” It was linked to a news story about the internet blockade at the protest sites.
Within hours, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and the US vice president’s niece Meena Harris tweeted their support, giving the farmers a chance to shine like diamonds.
As support for farmers’ began snowballing online, India’s external affairs ministry today (Feb 3) was pushed to defend its position, stating that the nation’s legislature had passed “reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector” after a full debate and discussion.
“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” it added.
At the same time, some Indian media went into overdrive to defend Modi and his administration. They began running interviews condemning Rihanna and her tweet. “It is disturbing,” remarked a reporter from an Indian news channel.
Rihanna’s tweet comes in the aftermath of the huge #TractorParade organised by the protesting farmers to coincide with the nation’s Republic Day on 26 Jan. The largely peaceful parade, attracting more than 200,000 tractors and more than a 1 million participants, saw pockets of disturbances allegedly engineered by the state apparatus.
India’s government has fortified Delhi’s borders and sought to block the Twitter accounts of key protest leaders and journalists, after farmers’ unions called for roads to be blocked across India on Saturday in their latest protest against the new laws, as well as the crackdown against protesters and reduced farm sector allocation in the annual budget announced Monday, reports Bloomberg.
With 8,927 hours of blacked out or curbed bandwidth access, the Indian government restricted internet use more than any other nation in 2020, according to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns report.
Cardiologist tells how lies were spread to confuse protesting farmers (Asia Samachar, 4 Jan 2021)