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With One Tweet, Rihanna Puts India Farmers' Protests in Global Spotlight

After American pop star Rihanna’s tweet about ongoing farmers’ protests in India, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that the issue was a domestic one and accused ‘vested interest groups’ of mobilizing international support against India.

American pop star Rihanna tweeted about ongoing farmers’ protests in India this week, sparking attention from other big names on social media and anger from the Indian government.

“Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Rihanna tweeted on Tuesday, with a link to a CNN article about ongoing protests.

The tweet, which has been liked more than a half-million times in the past day, sparked attention from climate activist Greta Thunberg and the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris.

"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," Meena Harris tweeted.

But its reception in India was mixed.

In a statement released Wednesday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that the issue was a domestic one and accused “vested interest groups” of mobilizing international support against India.

“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 Ministry said in a statement.

“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the statement went on.

The statement claims that only a “very small section” of farmers have protested three new bills, which farmers fear would put them at the mercy of large corporations. However, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped out near India’s capital of Delhi for nearly two months as talks with the government have stalled.

Indian newspapers have reported that journalists reporting along the Singhu border near Delhi have been arrested or prevented from entering secured areas to report. The Indian government has also reportedly shut down the internet in various parts of the state of Haryana, where many farmers have set up camp.

While many Bollywood celebrities have echoed the rhetoric of the ruling party, famous musicians from Punjab — the state known as the “bread basket” of India where most protesters have traveled from — have welcomed the international attention.

Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi musician and actor who has been vocal in his support of the protests, produced a song called “Riri” in honor of Rihanna less than twelve hours after her tweet.

The farmers' protest has emerged as a major challenge for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the government refusing to repeal the laws and farmers refusing to settle for anything less.

The government has defended the laws saying they would modernize agriculture and help farmers raise their incomes by affording them new opportunities to market their produce to private companies.

But farmers say the laws favor powerful corporations and fear they will dismantle the protection afforded by a decades-old system under which the government buys farm produce such as rice and wheat at what is called a “minimum price.”