US pop singer Rihanna created a flutter in India on Tuesday by wading into months-long farmer protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agricultural reforms.
Tens of thousands of young and old farmers have blocked roads leading into New Delhi for more than two months, sheltering in tractors from the cold.
A tractor rally by farmers last week in New Delhi turned violent. Police responded by shutting down the internet, digging ditches, driving nails into roads and topping barricades with razor wire to prevent farmers from entering the capital again.
“Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Rihanna tweeted, sharing a CNN article on the demonstrations with her 100.9 million followers on the platform, using the hashtag #FarmersProtest.
It was not immediately clear what led Rihanna, whose songs have done well in India, to suddenly tweet on the subject. As she trended on Twitter in India, Kangana Ranaut, who backs India’s ruling nationalist party BJP lashed out at her.
No one is talking about it because they are not farmers they are terrorists who are trying to divide India, so that China can take over our vulnerable broken nation and make it a Chinese colony much like USA...— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) February 2, 2021
Sit down you fool, we are not selling our nation like you dummies. https://t.co/OIAD5Pa61a
But hours after her tweet, a host of celebrities including Richa Chadha, You Tuber Lilly Singh lauded her stance. "Thank you so much Rihanna. This is a humanity issue! #IStandWithFarmers and this narrative is TIRED," wrote Singh. Chadha also reacted to Rihanna with a heart, hands joined in prayer emoticon and a bow and arrow emoticon.
Whereas Diljit Dosanjh, who had previously tried to reason with Ranaut after her hatred for protesting farmers went viral, also shared a happy picture of Rihanna on his Instagram stories, with her song Run This Town playing in the background. Diljit also shared a Punjabi proverb on Twitter writing, "Jaat Di Kohr Kirli, Shateeriyan Nu Jaffe (Your status in life is rather insignificant but you know how to talk big)."
The farmers' protests are led by turban-wearing Sikh farmers from the wheat and rice-growing state of Punjab in India’s north. The close-knit community, which is spread around the world, has also organised protests in Australia, Britain and the United States.
Sikh Coalition, a New York-based rights group, thanked Rihanna for casting more international spotlight on the subject. “For over a week, the Indian government has been suspending internet services around #FarmersProtest sites in a clear affront to the freedom of speech,” it said on Twitter.
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