Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson, of India’s Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), has shared an official statement issued by the ministry after international cultural, political, and social icons expressed solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests. International pop icon Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg shared news reports about the farmers’ protests, and were joined by other celebrities extending support to the protesting farmers and generating conversations.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) February 2, 2021
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 2, 2021
Actress and Instagram influencer Amanda Cerny too showed her support:
Most of them were instantly being trolled by Indian users including local social media influencers, as well as actor Kangana Ranaut, who went as far as to say the protesters “are not farmers but terrorists who are trying to divide India”. She not only repeatedly slut shamed Rihanna in a aseries of tweets, Ranaut also called Thunberg a “dumb and spoilt brat”.
By the afternoon of February 3, as the online conversation, trolling, threatening of the celebrities, and vilification of the farmers continued, an official statement was released by the ministry. The MEA has stated that the “Parliament of India, after a full debate and discussion, passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector. These reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming.” It added that it was only a “very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms,” and that the Government still “respected the sentiments of the protestors” and 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 has specifically reacted to the international support to the farmers and stated that “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. 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 statement goes on to say, “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.” It adds, “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 statement concludes by saying, “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 temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”
Soon after the MEA statement went viral on social media and was shared by ministers as well.
Times are changing. Influencers on the digital media platforms have immense power when they talk to their followers. One must be mindful of that power and the responsibility that comes with it.#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda #GenerallySaying pic.twitter.com/WCyMDO2vQa
— Vijay Kumar Singh (@Gen_VKSingh) February 3, 2021
Meanwhile, the trolling of all those global personalities who spoke up in support of farmers has continued all day. United Kindom’s Claudia Webbe, a Member of Parliament for Leicester East, has made public that she has been getting “death threats, rape threats, threats of sexual violence, misogyny, anti-black racism, outright lies, gaslighting, false allegations, malicious reporting, smear campaigns, everything really,” she however added that she continued to “stand with farmers”.
I have received trolling, death threats, rape threats, threats of sexual violence, misogyny, anti-black racism, outright lies, gaslighting, false allegations, malicious reporting, smear campaigns, everything really -I stand for human rights #IStandWithFarmers #FarmersProtest
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) February 1, 2021
American politician Jim Costa stated that the “unfolding events in India are troubling” and were being closely monitored by him as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Costa also serves on the Agriculture, Natural Resources Committees of his government.
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. #FarmersProtest
— Rep. Jim Costa (@RepJimCosta) February 2, 2021
While the Indian social media ‘influencers’ meltdown was expected. It is the abuse, threats, vilification that has done even more to embarrass India.
— Jignesh (@thisisjignesh) February 2, 2021
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