Facts need to be ascertained before rushing to comment on farmers' protests: MEA hits back at Rihanna, Greta

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday slammed the remarks made by American singer Rihanna and other celebrities and activists on farmer protests, saying the facts on the issue must be ascertained before rushing to comment on it, and asserted that the “temptation” of sensationalist social media hashtags and views is “neither accurate nor responsible”.

The strong reaction by the Ministry of External Affairs came after Rihanna, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, American actress Amanda Cerni, US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris and several other prominent people took to Twitter to lent their voices to the months-long farmer protests against three newly enacted farm laws.

The MEA also said some “vested interest groups” are trying to enforce their agenda on the protests and that a very small section of farmers in parts of the country have some reservations about the farm reforms which were passed by the Parliament after a full debate and discussion.

“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 MEA said in a statement.

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

Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting at three border points on the outskirts of Delhi demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws.

Emphasising that the protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, the ministry said some vested interest groups have tried to mobilise international support against the country.

Instigated by such “fringe elements”, Mahatma Gandhi statues have been desecrated in parts of the world, it said, adding this is “extremely disturbing” for India and for civilised society everywhere.

The ministry also noted that respecting the sentiments of the protestors, the Central government has initiated a series of talks with their representatives and Union ministers have been part of the negotiations.

As many as eleven rounds of talks have already been held, it said.

The Government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer iterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India, it asserted.

“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,” the ministry said.

Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint, the MEA said, adding it may be noted that hundreds of men and women serving in the police have been physically attacked, and in some cases stabbed and seriously wounded.Defending the three contentious agri laws, the ministry said,”these reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming.”