The ongoing war of narratives around farm protests in India has further intensified with surprise tweets by some global celebrities and an equally surprising rebuttal by the government of India in the form of press statement.
In a press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, the Government of India has expressed concern by saying, "Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible."
This was after few global celebrities led by international pop icon Rihana and Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg had caused a sensation through their tweets in support of the ongoing farm protests in India.
For uninitiated, hundreds of thousands of farmers have been camping outside Indian capital since last three months in opposition to three farm laws introduced by the central government statedly to enhance India's grossly underperforming farming sector.
The movement has remained undeniably, largely peaceful, except for an occasional outburst of violence and hooliganism on January 26 – India's republic day – at one of the iconic symbols of national pride and sovereignty, leaving few in poor taste.
An intense war of narrative has been going on since the beginning of the protests on the vast social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter – which have emerged as the new age space and a hotly contested one - for expression of views, sentiments, aspirations and nationalism – with each side refusing to relent.
This war of narratives has further exacerbated by international celebrities' plunge into the issue, who by extending unequivocal support to farm-protests has forced several popular Indian celebrities who have been till now, largely sitting on the fence on the issue, to come out in the open against what they perceived as unnecessary foreign-intervention on a completely local issue.
Rihana shared a BBC story on India's farm protest on her Twitter handle on February 3 asking, "Why aren't we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest"
Greta expressed her support on her Twitter handle, saying, "We stand in solidarity with the # FarmersProtest in India."
Following these tweets from global icons, some India's own celebrities, widely respected for their excellence in their craft such as cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and revered singer Lata Mangeshkar led the charge of domestic celebrities against their global peers for their alleged opportunistic plunge into India's domestic issue related to farm reforms.
Along with them, many other equally popular cine-stars, cricketers and sports icon who are either known for their well-formulated political views (Akshay Kumar, Kangana Ranaut, Gautam Gambhir) or known for their largely apolitical stance in public life thus far (Ekta Kapoor, Saina Nehwal and others) have come out against what they perceive as an unprovoked intrusion by foreign actors.
This ongoing tweet wars amongst Indian and global celebrities has expectedly caused much stir within India and the wider Indian diaspora living all around the world, including in New Zealand.
Like everywhere else, opinions are divided, and emotions stirred up, primarily because of the failure of the farmer leaders and the government in giving each other a "face-saving retreat" from the current stand-off.
The government has refused to repeal the laws, although offering a one-year temporary suspension, while farmer-leaders are adamant for a full repeal of the laws.
So far, both sides seem to remain relentless while refusing to budge from their respective stated positions.
This is when successive expert committees, even from previous governments (which are currently in opposition and tactically supporting farmer-protests) have given verdicts for urgent farm-reforms, to ameliorate the plight of poor marginal farmers.
In that respect, many experts have concurred that the manner in which the current central government have sought to implement farm-reforms have created more anxiety and dissent than otherwise if implemented through consultation and consensus approach.
For now, quiet, anxious unrest prevails amongst wider Indian diaspora all around the world, including in New Zealand, for what they perceive as "right" or "wrong" related to ongoing farmer protest back in India.
The global celebrities plunge on the issue at social media has skewed the ongoing war of narratives to a new direction of "domestic issue versus foreign intrusion" stirring up more emotions around nationalism and causing more complications than what they originally intended.
The press release by the government of India has sought foreign celebrities to see the current farmer protest within the in the context of India's democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse.