International pop star Rihanna, who holds Barbadian (from the Caribbean island of Barbados) citizenship, is "anti-national", the BJP's Sambit Patra declared Tuesday, after the singer's six-word tweet on the farmers' protest triggered a wave of support for them, a flood of angry comments targeting her and a warning by the government against "sensationalist" comments.
Sambit Patra, who is with BJP chief JP Nadda on a two-day visit of Kerala, also hit out at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi - who this morning cautioned the government against prolonging the standoff with the farmers - for trying to score political brownie points on a subject he knew nothing about.
"Rihanna and Rahul both know nothing about farmers... about crops, but both are tweeting on this issue. Where were these people when Gandhi's statue was attacked? Why didn't these international celebs tweet then?" Sambit Patra asked.
"Did they tweet when Kashmiri Pandits are taken out? Did they tweet when Delhi Police got injured with swords on January 26? None of these international activists tweeted then. Rahul Gandhi goes abroad meets anti-India elements... whether it is Rihanna or Mia Khalifa. It is all propaganda to defame India. These are anti-national elements," he raged.
Late Tuesday night Rihanna tweeted to her 100 million followers: "Why aren't we talking about this?" and shared an article on the farmers' protest by American news outlet CNN.
That six-word tweet triggered a wave of support for the farmers, but also led to a furious pushback against the singer - including an abusive reply by actor Kangana Ranaut.
Rihanna's tweet was quickly followed by one from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, American and British politicians, and Lebanese-American former adult film star Mia Khalifa.
The flood of support apparently unnerved the government, which this morning said "a very small section of farmers have reservations about the reforms".
"Temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible," the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Lakhs of farmers across India are protesting the centre's new farm laws, claiming it endangers their livelihood by allowing large corporate firms to bully them.
The centre insists the laws will benefit farmers and has refused to repeal them. Instead, an 18-month stay was offered - after the Supreme Court stopped implementation for two years - but turned down.
Last week the farmers' tractor rally through Delhi turned violent after some groups veered off course and stormed into the Red Fort, leading to the death of one person and injuries to hundreds of cops.
Since then the centre's containment measures have escalated, with barbed wire fences, concrete barricades and iron rods being used to stop farmers from advancing into the national capital.