It took just one tweet from Rihanna to anger the Indian government and supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party. The pop star linked a news article in a tweet drawing attention to the massive farmer protests that have gripped India for more than two months.
Now, senior government ministers, Indian celebrities and even the foreign ministry are urging people to come together and denounce outsiders who try to break the country.
“It is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them,” India’s foreign ministry said in a rare statement Wednesday, without naming Rihanna and others who followed her suit.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been hunkering down at the Indian capital’s fringes to protest new agricultural laws they say will leave them poorer and at the mercy of corporations. The protests are posing a major challenge to Modi who has billed the laws as necessary to modernize Indian farming.
Their largely peaceful protests turned violent on Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day, when a section of the tens of thousands of farmers riding tractors veered from the protest route earlier decided with police and stormed the 17th century Red Fort in a dramatic escalation. Hundreds of police officers were injured and a protester died. Scores of farmers were also injured but officials have not given their numbers.
Farmer leaders condemned the violence but said they would not call off the protest.