Home Minister Amit Shah this evening became the senior-most member of the Indian government to warn celebrities against the “temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” – a response to the wave of support for farmers protesting the new agriculture laws that was generated by pop star Rihanna and her six-word tweet and hashtag.
Mr Shah joined the growing list of BJP politicians and leaders, and Bollywood celebrities tweeting against “propaganda” that threatens national unity.
“No propaganda can deter India’s unity! No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights! Propaganda can not decide India’s fate only ‘Progress’ can. India stands united and together to achieve progress,” Mr Shah tweeted.
Late Tuesday night Rihanna tweeted to her 100 million followers: “Why aren’t we talking about this #FarmersProtest?” and shared an article on the farmers’ protest by American news outlet CNN.
No propaganda can deter India’s unity!
No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights!
Propaganda can not decide India’s fate only ‘Progress’ can.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) February 3, 2021
Her tweet was quickly followed by a flood of such messages, including one from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and Lebanese-American former adult film star Mia Khalifa. Both Rihanna and Ms Khalifa were labelled “anti-national” today by the BJP’s Sambit Patra.
Rihanna’s tweet also triggered a furious pushback against the singer – including an abusive reply by actor Kangana Ranaut – with responses from actors Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Ajay Devgn, filmmaker Karan Johar, and a number of union ministers.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar also 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.#IndiaTogether#IndiaAgainstPropaganda
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 3, 2021
The pushback followed a formal response from the government – a response that did not mention Rihanna but highlighted “vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda… tried to mobilise international support against India…”
“A very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms,” th government said, referring to a protest that has seen tens of thousands of farmers across India express their concern over laws that they say will endanger their livelihoods.
The centre also said police force had handled the protests with “utmost restraint”.
The centre insists the laws will benefit farmers and has refused to repeal them. Instead, an 18-month stay was offered – after the Supreme Court stopped implementation for two years – but turned down.
Last week the farmers’ tractor rally through Delhi turned violent after some groups veered off course and stormed into the Red Fort, leading to the death of one person and injuries to hundreds of cops.
Since then the centre’s containment measures have escalated, with barbed wire fences, concrete barricades and iron rods being used to stop farmers from advancing into the national capital.