The Indian government and its supporters are attacking Western celebrities for supporting the …

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  • India’s government has slammed Western celebrities for backing the farmers protesting in New Delhi.
  • Farmers say the government’s proposed reforms to agricultural laws will leave them poorer.
  • Pro-government crowds burned photos of Rihanna and Greta Thunberg on Thursday.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Indian government has launched an attack on Western celebrities, with some supporters burning their photos, for publicly supporting mass protests by farmers.

In late November 2020, some 300,000 farmers marched on New Delhi and set up camp to protest a planned reform of agriculture laws that they say will see them lose their income.

Many have joined them — with the crowd size reaching 250 million at its peak — and the farmers remain unmoving.

This week, the farmers’ cause was taken up by several US and European celebrities, prompting anger from the government and its supporters.

“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

Indian Farmers Protests

Protesters block a major highway during a protest at the Delhi-Haryana state border in India on December 1, 2020.

Altaf Qadri/AP Photos


The comments came hours after celebrities including the climate activist Greta Thunberg, singer Rihanna, and author Meena Harris — who is also the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris — expressed support for the farmers.

“We stand in solidarity with farmers protests in India,” Thunberg tweeted Tuesday. The next day, Thunberg tweeted a “toolkit” for supporting the farmers, including how to sign petitions and which hashtags to use.

Rihanna on Tuesday tweeted an article about the protest, writing: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!”

—Rihanna (@rihanna) February 2, 2021

The same day, Meena Harris tweeted: “We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters.”

Harris was referring to the government’s decision last Sunday to once again shut down the internet around New Delhi amid the protests.

—Meena Harris (@meenaharris) February 2, 2021

On Thursday, pro-government protesters in New Delhi also burned photos of Thunberg, Rihanna, and Harris, The Guardian reported.

—Danish Siddiqui (@dansiddiqui) February 4, 2021

—Danish Siddiqui (@dansiddiqui) February 4, 2021

Harris tweeted in response to a photo of her likeness being burned: “I spoke out in support of human rights for Indian farmers, and look at the response.”

The NBA player Kyle Kuzma has also tweeted about the protests, while the NFL player JuJu Smith Schuster tweeted that he had donated $10,000 to help the farmer obtain medical supplies.

A number of Indian celebrities have also publicly supported their government, with the actress Kangana Ranaut, describing the farmers as terrorists, and the Indian cricket player Pragyan Ojha tweeting to Rihanna: “We don’t need an outsider poking her nose in our internal matters!”

Read more: Trump is plotting a campaign revenge tour targeting GOP defectors after Senate impeachment trial

Why are the protests happening?

The Indian government wants to liberalize the agriculture industry — in which 40% of Indians work — and deregulate crop pricing.

Farmers’ unions say the proposed laws would make them poorer and leave them exposed to exploitation from large corporations. They also say they were not consulted about the new plans.

The demonstrations have often turned violent, with the police erecting barbed wire barricades and digging trenches around parts of New Delhi.

On January 27, a number of farmers broke into the city’s historic Red Fort, and the government called the military eject them. Three hundred police officers were also injured in the city that day, the BBC added.

Some farmers have also said that the proposed laws are worsening the suicide epidemic sweeping their industry, as Insider reported last month.

The farmers’ efforts have had some impact, but how the fight will end remains unclear.

Late last month, India’s Supreme Court ruled to suspend the new laws from being imposed last month, but farmer are refusing to back down until the laws are completely repealed — a move that the government has already vowed not to do.

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