Global celebrities are helping Indian Farmers to fight their government’s crackdown on dissent.
Rihanna and Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg reiterates support for India farmers’ protest despite “threats”
Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg said Thursday that “hate” and “threats” wouldn’t stop her speaking out in support of thousands of Indian farmers locked in a standoff with their government. Thunberg fired back online as police in India launched an investigation mentioning her tweets, which have drawn a vitriolic reaction online.
“I still #StandWithFarmers and support their peaceful protest. No amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change that. #FarmersProtest,” the young Swedish campaigner wrote on Twitter.
Thunberg first voiced solidarity with the farmers after popstar Rihanna drew global attention to their protest against three controversial new farm laws. The demonstrations have simmered since November, with occasional violent clashes in Delhi
Rihanna, the 32-year-old Barbados-born reggae and hip-hop singer, swooped in unexpectedly to support tens of thousands of Indian farmers who have surrounded the nation’s capital, New Delhi, following months of protest.
Indian farmers are seeking the repeal of three controversial laws passed in 2020. The laws are intended to reform India’s highly regulated and subsidized agricultural market but which, many farmers fear, will leave them defenceless against corporate power and increase their risk of uncertain returns. The Indian parliament passed those laws in unseemly haste, without the usual consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. Since then, protests have continued unabated, with farmers laying siege on the outskirts of New Delhi and embarrassing the government.
Rihanna, however, made no claims of being an expert on agriculture or India’s parliamentary procedures. Her concern was more straightforward: Why is the world not concerned about the stifling of dissent in India? Pointing out a CNN report about India blocking internet access around the protest sites, the singer asked in a tweet: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Internet blackouts have become a standard operating procedure for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to prevent critics and protesters from communicating with one another or to the rest of the population and to stop images from being circulated.
Rihanna has more than 100 million followers worldwide. Within hours, other international celebrities had stepped in: Greta Thunberg, the teenage Swedish environmentalist, provided a link to a toolkit that explained in detail what people around the world could do to support Indian farmers. Meena Harris, the niece of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India, also joined in. So did the phenomenally popular Canadian Indian poet Rupi Kaur. Other celebrities chimed in as well. Politicians in Britain, Canada, and the United States have backed the protesters, as have British farmers.
U.S. Representative Jim Costa, a Democrat from California who serves on both the Foreign Affairs and Agriculture Committees. wrote: “The unfolding events in India are troubling. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am closely monitoring the situation. The right to peaceful protest must always be respected,”.
Here’s a look at what foreign celebrities tweeted:
Comedian and YouTuber Lilly Singh thanked Rihanna for speaking up about what she called a “humanity issue”, and affirmed that she stood in solidarity with the farmers.
American climate activist Jamie Margolin, too, said she stood with the farmers of India, and urged her followers to support their protest.
Kenyan environment and climate activist and founder of the Green Generation Initiative Elizabeth Wathuti, while quoting a CNN article, wrote, “The big picture here is that India must begin to value the lives and well-being of its own citizens over the potential economic gains for its nation.”
United Kingdom MP Claudia Webbe thanked Rihanna for stepping forward “in an era where political leadership is lacking”. Solidarity to the Indian farmers, the British parliamentarian added.
Professor and writer Khaled Beydoun said he salutes Rihanna for bringing the much needed attention on the farmer protests – a movement that is being “silenced by Twitter and violently suppressed by the Modi government”.
Beydoun also criticised Twitter for the social media platform’s recent actions of temporarily blocking dozens of accounts in India including those of Caravan magazine and of farmers protesting near the Capital. The action was taken reportedly on the government’s request.