Recently, pop star Rihanna’s tweet on farmers’ movement helped to amplify the issue globally, causing severe embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Modi regime and the BJP jumped into the fray to counter the criticism. Even the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued statements over tweets of celebrities–a first of its kind.
While many farmers’ movement supporters have been elated by Rihanna’s tweet, and other western celebrities like green capitalism’s youth icon Greta Thunberg, the former female adult actor-turned-activist Mia Khalifa, female actor Susan Sarandon, etc, joining the conversation, they have been opposing the sudden tweeting spree by Indian celebrities supporting the Modi regime. They are claiming that these celebrities are forced to support Modi on social media. But by criticising the government for the actions of these celebrities, the supporters of the farmers’ movement are missing out the bigger picture.
All so-called celebrities—film actors, singers, national-level players—have the right to choose their political side when the oppressed sections of the society clash with the oppressors; those who support the oppressed, even quite passively, also have the right to voice their opinion. But one must note that the celebrities supporting the Modi regime and the BJP against the farmers aren’t solely doing it to save their skins or to remain saleable in the Modi-fied India’s markets, rather, most of them are accomplices of the regime and share its ideology because of their caste-class roots. By accusing the government or the BJP of scaring these so-called celebrities, one would exhibit political myopia.
Much before Rihanna’s tweet on farmers’ movement, a host of film actors, sportspersons, singers, etc, have been vociferously supporting the Modi regime and the BJP. They have aligned well with the Hindutva fascist ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Due to their caste and class privileges, they have always supported Hindutva jingoism, Brahminical supremacy and Islamophobia. Many film actors have joined the BJP directly or have been acting as the RSS’s propaganda outlets on social media to influence their fans. The fact that the Hindi film industry, which acted as a propaganda weapon of the Indian ruling classes since its inception, will take the side of the Hindutva fascists, whose ideology it has propagated through films, is quite normal.
Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar once praised VD Savarkar—the one who coined the term “Hindutva” and played a crucial role in advancing the cause of Brahminical bigotry in mainstream politics—and said she sought his blessings at the beginning of her career. Other singers like Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Sonu Nigam, etc, have been known for their bigotry and misogyny for a long time. It’s not surprising to see them jumping into the fray to support Modi and his Hindutva fascist bloc.
Cricket, India’s most overrated sports, has been a game of corporate sponsorship and horse-trading. Mostly the upper-caste Hindus have been able to make it big in the game, while Bahujans remained at the margins. Their caste-class position makes them the vocal supporters of Hindutva fascism. On different occasions, people like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Virat Kohli, etc, didn’t shy wearing their political allegiance on their sleeves. Cricketers, like other sportspersons, are supporting the Modi regime out of their shared ideology and not under threat.
Rihanna’s tweet on farmers’ movement despite exposing the Modi regime’s insecurities and the nefarious nexus between India’s ruling clique and the celebrities, did no good to the cause. The farmers’ protest movement has been going on since November 26th 2020 driven by the rage against corporate aggression on farming. It’s not dependent on the support from celebrities on social media. The tweet-war waged by the Modi regime, especially by deploying the MEA and the celebrities, took away the focus from the core demands of the movement.
The yardstick to gauge the merit of any protest, including the farmers’ protest, can’t be the support it has got from international celebrities, because in case they change sides, the movement can’t be condemned. A movement must be judged by its merit. Though Rihanna’s tweet on farmers’ movement helped its international amplification, the stress should be laid on developing the movement at the grassroots than depending on social media. The outcome of the farmers’ movement will be decided on the streets only and not on social media. Hence, it’s far important now to ignore the social media war and reach out to the farmers in real to intensify the mass movement in real.