If India rebuked Canada’s prime minister for his interference in India’s internal matter and thought that the international community has been dealt with, they are in for a shock. Pop star Rihanna with her 100 million followers and teen environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg ,have drawn global attention to Indian farmers’ fight against the government’s new agriculture laws.
This brought to light India’s handling of the farm protests. It casts a shining spotlight on India’s suspension of internet services at protest sites around New Delhi.
Rihanna tweeted “Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest,” to her more than 100-million followers and linked an article about the communications crackdown around Delhi. The power of social media was evident by Wednesday, as her tweet had been liked by more than 391,000 people and shared nearly 200,000 times.
Indian government has fortified Delhi’s borders and sought to block the Twitter accounts of key protestors, journalists and leaders after the 26th january episode at the red fort .
This action was undertaken due to fabricated reports of ‘farmer genocide’ being circulated that had immense potential for mass uprising and unrest. This also comes after farmers’ unions called for roads to be blocked across India on Saturday for protest against the new laws, in addition to the agitation against crackdown on protesters and reduced farm sector allocation in the annual budget announced on Monday.
According to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns report, India with its 8,927 hours of curbed internet access, became the only nation to restrict internet use more than any other nation in 2020.
The teen environment activist Greta Thunberg tweeted her support for the agitating demonstrators: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” This has brought in severe criticism for the environmental activist, who tends to support the protests, that every year contributes immensely to air pollution with their activities of stubble farming.
India’s foreign ministry issued a blazing statement to rectify the situation on Wednesday and blamed “vested interests” trying to “mobilize international support against India”.
“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the ministry said. The tweet was ended by adding the hashtags #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda. This was immediately followed by immense support from the Bollywood industry. Big stars including Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan and Karan johar too tweeted with hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda in the same one-hour time frame.
About 250 Twitter accounts were restricted “in response to a valid legal request from the ministry of electronics and information technology” were later restored because they constitute “free speech and are newsworthy,” Twitter said in a statement. This again draws criticism against the twitter authorities which last month suspended Donald Trump’s account against the threat of inciting further violence after witnessing the condemnable scenes at the Capitol.
On the contrary, the protest leader Darshan Pal Singh stated “The government is desperate to quell the farmers protest by any means,” .
The farmers have been demanding the repeal of the legislation pushed through by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. According to farmers, it will make agriculture vulnerable to market avarice by allowing corporates to make all the market gains at the expense of the farmers. While, noteworthily, the government has offered to suspend the reforms for 18 months and the Supreme Court has set up a mediation committee. But protesters have remained resolute on their demand that they will not accept anything less, than the laws being scrapped.
The decision of the heavy internet and mobility clampdown and barricading of the city was taken to avoid the repeat of the January 26 clashes.
“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” said Meenakshi Ganguli, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government instead should conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the January 26 violence in Delhi.”