"Why aren't we talking about this?!" tweeted pop superstar Rihanna on February 2 sharing a news report on India's ongoing farmers' protest, which left the country divided and drew global attention to the mass agitation. The Barbados born singer has a track record of using social media for voicing her opinions on events including Black Lives Matter, Beirut bombings and Myanmar coup.
Rihanna was soon joined by global influencers, including Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, former adult film actor Mia Khalifa, US Vice President Kamala Hariss' niece Meena, television show host Trevor Noah, YouTuber Lilly Singh and many others.
From film stars to sportspersons to senior government officials to even the foreign ministry, everyone came together and urged the outside world to stay away from India's internal matters. Soon hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether, which were coined by the ministry, became the top trending hashtags on Twitter in India.
"It is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them," Ministry of External Affairs said in a rare statement days later, without naming Rihanna and people who followed her suit.
Rihanna's single tweet was enough for Indians to troll her in the most demeaning ways. The 'Good Girl Gone Bad' fame, who has more than 101 million followers on Twitter, was slut-shamed by Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut, who called Rihanna a "porn singer". Some misogynistic trolls even hailed her former boyfriend Chris Brown for assaulting her in 2009. Even the pro-government media outlets almost declared the 32-year-old a "Khalistani supporter".
Meanwhile, the US State Department issued a 4-point statement recommending the Narendra Modi government to consider dialogue with the protesting farmers instead of cutting internet access. Notably, the news report that Rihanna shared with her contentious tweet was about how India blocked internet around Delhi border points to avoid any clash between police and protestors after the Republic Day violence.
On January 26, India's Republic Day, thousands of agitators conducted their own parade to amplify their protest against Centre's farm laws. The peaceful rally, which had it own allowed route, soon turned violent and broke through police barricades, clashed with the police and reached Red Fort to hoist religious flag on its ramparts. The violence left around 500 police personnel injured.
Still, no matter how India handles the situation, the war of words isn't going to end anytime soon, especially on social media, as Rihanna's one question has already amplified the voice of the protesting farmers, which certainly amplified inconvenience to the central government.