Barbadian pop sensation Rihanna on Tuesday became one of the first global personalities to back the protesting farmers in India, and was followed by climate activist Greta Thunberg, actor John Cusack, US Vice president Kamala Harris’s niece Meena Harris, and Lebanese-American model Mia Khalifa, among others. The 32-year-old singer-actor’s tweet to her 101 million-plus followers, “Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest” quoted a CNN report headlined ‘India cuts internet around New Delhi as protesting farmers clash with police’.
It has been several months since thousands of farmers from around 22 Indian states have been sitting on the outskirts of Delhi in this biting cold protesting against the three contentious Farm Bills passed by the Narendra Modi government. However, it took a tweet from pop star Rihanna – followed by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and American vlogger Amanda Cerny to stimulate Indian celebrities for speaking out on the ongoing protests.
“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a blunt statement. Bollywood celebrities and sportspersons soon took to social media in order to reiterate the hashtags #Indiaunited and #Indiaagainstpropaganda started by the MOE curtly reprimanding the tweet by the international star. The hashtags were thereon trending on Twitter after Indian celebrities extended their support to the government’s response on “external forces” interfering in India’s “internal” matter.
It is inconceivable to see the apparently ‘apolitical’ Bollywood use their respective platforms for assenting or dissenting, as they are known to keep their sides clear from any risk causing affair, which is basically taking a stand – a political act. It is queer to now find them coming forward for safeguarding the sanctity of India’s politics, the idea of India and the unity of its people only when international celebrities came forward in support for the protesting farmers.
Seeing celebrities reeling under the very same propaganda they have been so nonchalantly tweeting about is hypocrisy at its best and falsity at its worst. From Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgan, Suniel Shetty to Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina and Shikhar Dhawan – we are seeing Indian celebrities leveraging their ‘star power’ for securing their business once again.
The same celebrities who chose to remain silent during the whole length of this intense, and largely violent standoff between the Government of India and the farmers are galvanizing Twitter to protect India’s sovereignty, to not fall for any false propaganda against India or its policies, to not believe in any half-truth et al.
The concern here is not about Indian celebrities taking or not taking a stand for the people of this country, but the double standard of them where they choose to talk about a ‘political’ issue if and when it is convenient for them.
The ‘I want peace’ and ‘an amicable solution’ is hollow when it is not underpinned by inclusivity and is only catering to the government in power. While it is trendy to speak about systemic racism in America, why are these celebrities not manifesting the same dissent for systemic oppression in India. Is racism America’s internal affair? Certainly not. Then why is internet shutdown, police crackdowns and petty political tactics all of a sudden India’s internal affair?
The political participation of Indian celebrities is generally limited to standing in a line to vote for a good Instagram selfie, later on urging the people of the country to use the privilege of their ‘rights’, but why is this neutrality not extending to occasions like these where people are actually demanding or rather dying for their rights.
An astonishing amount of Hollywood celebrities called out their President for his fascist tendencies openly on their social media, award acceptance speeches, talk shows, without an inkling of fear or cowardice, without any vague or ambiguous words – they were standing against the undemocratic nature of their President. I believe this is a good time for Indian celebrities to take some lessons and spine from them.
This en masse twitter war on people who stood for the citizens of their country when they did not is disappointing, as well as frightening. Perhaps their classic silence or ‘this is not the right platform’ would have been better than their vitriolic tweets targeting those who are unfortunately not as privileged, or as rich as them to remain quite under oppression.
Nuzhat Khan is a student studying English Literature at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Varda Ahmad
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.