New Delhi also said “Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint
New Delhi: Stung by the endorsement of the ongoing farmers’agitation by global pop icon Rihanna, top environmental activist Greta Thunberg and American lawyer Meena Harris, niece of US vice-president Kamala Harris, India on Wednesday defended its three new farm laws, saying it gives “expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers”, and blasted “propaganda” by “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments resorted to by celebrities” as being “neither accurate nor responsible”.
Saying a “very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms”, the external affairs ministry accused “vested interest groups” of trying to “mobilise international support against India”. The MEA statement was accompanied by the hashtags “#IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda”.
Union home minister Amit Shah said on Wednesday, meanwhile, that no amount of propaganda can deter India’s unity or stop the country from attaining new heights.
The reaction came after pop icon Rihanna referred to a media report on the farmers’ stir and tweeted: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Greta Thunberg tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with the farmers’ protest in India”. US vice-president Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris, a lawyer and author, was far harsher and lashed out at the Indian government by tweeting: “It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We all should be outraged by India’s Internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters. Militant nationalism is just as potent a force in US politics as it is in India or anyplace else. It can only be stopped if people wake up to the reality that fascist dictators aren’t going anywhere.”
The tweets have angered New Delhi, that put out a statement on “recent comments by foreign individuals and entities on the farmers’ protests”.
The MEA referred to the recent violence by protesters on Republic Day (January 26) when “a cherished national commemoration, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Constitution of India, was besmirched, and violence and vandalism took place in the Indian capital”. New Delhi also said “Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint”, pointing out that “hundreds of men and women serving in the police have been physically attacked, and in some cases stabbed and seriously wounded”.
The MEA said: “The Parliament of India, after a full debate and discussion, passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector. These reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming.”
Criticising celebrity endorsements of the farmers’stir, the MEA added: “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.”
New Delhi further said: “A very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms. Respecting the sentiments of the protesters, the Government of India initiated a series of talks with their representatives. Union ministers have been a part of the negotiations, and eleven rounds of talks have already been held. The government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer iterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India.”
The MEA stated: “Yet, it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests and derail them. This was egregiously witnessed on January 26, India’s Republic Day. A cherished national commemoration, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Constitution of India, was besmirched, and violence and vandalism took place in the Indian capital. Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India. Instigated by such fringe elements, Mahatma Gandhi statues have been desecrated in parts of the world. This is extremely disturbing for India and for civilised society everywhere.”