A day after international pop star Rihanna shared an article on farmer protests and Internet shutdown in Delhi and tweeted “Why aren’t we talking about this?”, some of India’s top celebrities did just that. They responded with hashtags – #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda – tweeting their support for the government and their displeasure over Rihanna’s interjection.
From Bharat Ratna winners Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar to actors Akshay Kumar, Kangana Ranaut and Ajay Devgn, filmmaker Karan Johar, producer Ektaa Kapoor and cricketer Virat Kohli, the celebrities took to Twitter soon after the Ministry of External Affairs reacted to Rihanna, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and others who highlighted the protests on social media.
Sharing the ministry statement, Akshay Kumar wrote, “Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda”.
By evening, a usually reticent Tendulkar tweeted that “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,” he said. He was joined by current and former cricketers like India captain Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Suresh Raina and Anil Kumble, who tweeted that India is “more than capable of taking its internal issues to amicable solutions”.
“Let us all stay united in this hour of disagreements. Farmers are an integral part of our country and I’m sure an amicable solution will be found between all parties to bring about peace and move forward together,” tweeted Kohli.
In her tweet, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar said, “India is a glorious nation and we all Indians stand with our heads held high. As a proud Indian, I have faith, that any issues or problems that as a country we face; we are fully equipped to resolve them amicably, keeping the interest of our people in mind. Jai Hind.”
While Devgn urged people to be wary of “false propaganda against India or Indian policies”, Johar, who had been the target of trolls following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput last year, tweeted that the country should not let “anyone divide us”. “We live in turbulent times and the need of the hour is prudence and patience at every turn. Let us together, make every effort we can to find solutions that work for everyone our farmers are the backbone of India. Let us not let anyone divide us. #IndiaTogether” he wrote. Actors Suniel Shetty, Anupam Kher and singer Kailash Kher, too, lent their voices against Rihanna.
There were others, however, who were critical of the celebrities. Top Carnatic vocalist T M Krishna tweeted: “It is pathetic to see so-called celebrities tweet about how ‘outsiders’ have no business speaking about the farmer’s strike. No one stopped anyone from saying anything about all that went on in the US did they? This level of sucking up is truly disgusting!”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor targeted the government over the tweets: “For GoI to get Indian celebrities to react to Western ones is embarrassing. The damage done to India’s global image by GoI’s obduracy & undemocratic behaviour can’t be remedied by a cricketer’s tweets. Withdraw the farm laws &discuss solutions w/farmers &you’ll get #IndiaTogether.”
There were others who lauded the pop star. Actors Richa Chadha, Swara Bhasker, Taapsee Pannu, Ali Fazal, US-based Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra and filmmaker Hansal Mehta all tweeted in support of Rihanna.
Actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh, who has consistently shown his support for the farmers, even came up with a song Ri Ri on Wednesday afternoon, dedicating it to Rihanna, while actor Sayani Gupta lamented the silence of mainstream Bollywood celebrities and sportspeople on the contentious issue, writing “Dear Indian celebrities/ actors/ sportsmen/ musicians/stars, grow some spine. Love.