India calls Rihanna and Greta Thunberg 'irresponsible' over farmers' protest tweets

Farmers' protest, Rihanna and Greta
India has called celebrities 'irresponsible' for their social media posts about the farmers' protest. Credit: AP

By Digital Producer and Presenter Rishi Davda

Singer Rihanna has found herself on the wrong side of the Indian government, after she and other "celebrities" were accused of "sensationalism" and not being "responsible" following their social media posts showing support for the farmers' protest.

Barbados-born Rihanna tweeted a link to a news article detailing the most recent development in the protest, which saw officials cut the internet in areas around the capital of New Delhi after demonstrators violently clashed with police.

#FarmersProtest was quickly trending on the social media platform with Rihanna's tweet gaining 500,000 likes and 250,000 retweets within 24 hours.

Rihanna's post to her 101 million Twitter followers has raised the profile of the protests and gained support from high-profile personalities around the world.

Teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg joined in shortly after, sharing a link from her account and pledging "solidarity" with the farmers.

The protest has been going on for months now and is over new agricultural laws that have been introduced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The laws will change the way goods are sold, priced and stored. The government claim that they allow for online and interstate trading.

It would also give farmers the opportunity to sell their produce directly to private buyers instead of going through the government-regulated markets called ‘Mandis’.

Currently the price of produce is decided on the market floor, while minimum sale prices are assured.

However, many farmers feel that losing their assured prices as part of the new laws will weaken their bargaining power and could leave them vulnerable to exploitation by big private companies - meaning they will earn much less money.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes that his new laws will actually help farmers. Credit: AP

The government of India isn't happy with the celebrity involvement and social media swirl surrounding the protest.

In a statement, it urged that "the facts be ascertained and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken".

Responding to the high-profile support, the Ministry of External Affairs said that "the temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible".

Last week protestors stormed the historic Red Fort. Credit: AP

The new laws have proved especially controversial given the importance of agriculture to India. It is the primary source of income for around 58% of India's 1.3 billion population.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped out around the capital for months in a protest that at the start was very much peaceful - but that has changed.

On January 26 - a national holiday known as Republic Day - thousands of protesters on tractors, horses and foot stormed the historic Red Fort.

One protester was killed and hundreds were injured in during clashes with police, who used tear gas and batons to break up the crowd.

Barbed wire and iron barricades have been installed as security is ramped up near the Indian capital. Credit: AP

It doesn't look as if the violence will deescalate any time soon with Indian authorities ramping up security along three main protests sites outside the New Dehli border.

Police have introduced cemented iron spikes, steel barricades and barbed wire. Hundreds of extra riot officers have been deployed to the area.

Eleven rounds of talks were held between the Indian government and Farming Union ministers over the new rules. Prime Minister Modi reportedly offered to keep the laws on hold but farmers wanted to repeal them altogether.

Talks have since broken down and officials now state that after "a full debate and discussion", the Parliament of India has "passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector."