Rihanna on Tuesday created a flutter in India 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 said in a Twitter post, sharing a CNN article on the demonstrations with her 101 million followers on the platform, using the hashtag #FarmersProtest.
Rihanna’s tweets triggered an online storm in India, with Indians claiming that Rihanna is an ‘ISI agent’. To make matters worse, an old picture of Zulfi and Rihanna surfaced on social media further convincing Indians that the star is backed by Pakistan.
What’s interesting is that most of the tweets have the same text indicating that they are part of a online campaign against the singer.
While it is not clear when the picture of Zulfi and Rihanna was taken, reports indicate that it was taken in September 2018.
Later, Zulfi also lauded Rihanna for raising her voice, saying: “Well said and well done.”
Meanwhile, India’s government has bristled at international remarks on the protests, calling them an “internal matter”.
In an official statement, the foreign ministry said that the celebrities needed “a proper understanding of the issues”.
“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” read the statement, with the hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.
“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,” it added.
The Indian government has also activated its PR machinery with several Bollywood bigwigs including Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn and Suniel Shetty and cricketers urging their Indian followers not to let anyone divide the country or fall for “false propaganda”.