- "Propaganda can not decide India's fate only 'Progress' can': Amit Shah
- Rihanna tweeted on farmers' protest to her 100 million followers
- Her tweet was quickly followed by a flood of such messages
Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday evening became the senior-most member of the government to warn of the "temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments" - a response to the wave of support for farmers protesting the new agriculture laws, a wave generated by a six-word tweet and hashtag from pop star Rihanna.
Mr Shah joined union ministers, including Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, India cricket captain Virat Kohli and Bollywood celebrities tweeting in apparent unison against "propaganda" that threatens national unity.
"No propaganda can deter India's unity! No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights! Propaganda can not decide India's fate only 'Progress' can. India stands united and together to achieve progress," Mr Shah tweeted.
Shortly afterwards External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said: "Motivated campaigns targeting India will never succeed. We have the self confidence today to hold our own. This India will push back."
Earlier Ms Sitharaman tweeted: "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."
Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, G Kishan Reddy and VK Singh also tweeted.
Late Tuesday night Rihanna tweeted to her 100 million followers: "Why aren't we talking about this #FarmersProtest?" and shared an article on the farmers' protest by American news outlet CNN.
No propaganda can deter India's unity!— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) February 3, 2021
No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights!
Propaganda can not decide India's fate only ‘Progress' can.
India stands united and together to achieve progress.#IndiaAgainstPropaganda#IndiaTogetherhttps://t.co/ZJXYzGieCt
Her tweet was quickly followed by a flood of such messages, including one from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and Lebanese-American former adult film star Mia Khalifa. Both Rihanna and Ms Khalifa were labelled "anti-national" by the BJP's Sambit Patra.
Rihanna's tweet also triggered a furious pushback against the singer - including an abusive reply by actor Kangana Ranaut - with responses from actors Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Ajay Devgn, filmmaker Karan Johar, and a number of union ministers.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar also tweeted.
India's sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 3, 2021
Indians know India and should decide for India. Let's remain united as a nation.#IndiaTogether#IndiaAgainstPropaganda
The pushback followed a formal response from the government - a response that did not mention Rihanna but highlighted "vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda... tried to mobilise international support against India..."
"A very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms," the government said, referring to a protest that has seen tens of thousands of farmers across India express their concern over laws that they say will endanger their livelihoods.
The centre also said the police force, which had been criticised for excessive force against protesting farmers, had handled the protests with "utmost restraint".
The centre insists the laws will be beneficial and won't 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.