- Both Rihanna and Ms Khalifa had tweeted in support of the farmers
- Rihanna's tweet triggered a furious pushback
- Lakhs of farmers across India are protesting the centre's new farm laws
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli has joined the growing list of national celebrities and political leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, to tweet on unity and farmers - a list triggered by pop star Rihanna's six-word tweet indicating support for those protesting the centre's agriculture laws.
"Let us all stay united in this hour of disagreements. Farmers are an integral part of our country and I'm sure an amicable solution will be found between all parties to bring about peace and move forward together," Mr Kohli tweeted late Wednesday.
Mr Kohli wasn't quite as outspoken as some - earlier the BJP's Sambit Patra declared Rihanna (a citizen of the Caribbean island of Barbados) and Lebanese-American model Mia Khalifa were "anti nationals".
Both Rihanna and Ms Khalifa had tweeted in support of the farmers.
Let us all stay united in this hour of disagreements. Farmers are an integral part of our country and I'm sure an amicable solution will be found between all parties to bring about peace and move forward together. #IndiaTogether— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) February 3, 2021
Mr Kohli's tweet was followed quickly by a similarly-worded one from fellow cricketer Ajinkya Rahane, the vice captain of the Indian team.
Mr Rahane posted: "There's no issue that cannot be resolved if we stand together as one. Let's remain united and work towards resolving our internal issues."
There's no issue that cannot be resolved if we stand together as one. Let's remain united and work towards resolving our internal issues #IndiaTogether— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) February 3, 2021
And then fellow cricketer Rohit Sharma posted (again) a similarly-worded tweet: "India has always been stronger when we all stand together and finding a solution is the need of the hour. Our farmers play an important role in our nation's well being and I am sure everyone will play their roles to find a solution TOGETHER".
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.
Her tweet was quickly followed by a flood of such messages, including one from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and another by Meena Harris, an American lawyer who is also the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Rihanna's tweet also triggered a furious pushback - including an abusive reply by actor Kangana Ranaut - with responses coming from actors Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, filmmaker Karan Johar.
There were also tweets praising Rihanna for speaking out, while pointing out that Indian celebrities had stayed silent on the matter of tear gassing and lathi charges of farmers.
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.
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.
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.