Maharashtra will investigate tweets by celebrities in response to the global criticism of the government's handling of the farmers' protest. "It has been revealed that there were same posts by celebrities and at the same time. Hence it will be investigated why it has happened," Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Desmukh said today after requests from the state Congress leaders to look into the matter.
Leaders of Maharashtra Congress had sought an investigation into whether the celebrities were under BJP pressure to post responses on social media in support of the Central government. Earlier today, the leaders had an online meeting with Mr Desmukh, who has tested Covid positive and is currently in isolation.
Congress leader Sachin Sawant said a similar pattern can be seen between the tweets made by these celebrities. Most used the word "amicable".
"Akshay Kumar and Saina Nehwal tweeted the exact same thing and actor Suniel Shetty tagged a BJP leader. While everyone has a right to express themselves, we want the government to probe whether these people were pressurized by the government to tweet this," Mr Sawant said.
Pop icon Rihanna's six-word tweet last week, flagging the farmers' protest in India against the Centre's three farm laws, had started a global outpouring of support from US political leaders and celebrities. A number of celebrities, political leaders and activists -- including Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, Meena Harris, an American lawyer and niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, actor Amanda Cerni, singers Jay Sean, Dr Zeus and former adult star Mia Khalifa – tweeted on the matter. The last to join in was Hollywood veteran Susan Sarandon.
It was followed by a huge pushback from India, with political leaders, actors and sportspersons contending that India's sovereignty cannot be compromised and the government had the protest situation in hand.
The pushback was led by actors Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Ajay Devgn, filmmaker Karan Johar, Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, Vice-Captain Ajinkya Rahane, opener Rohit Sharma and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Most tweets were posted with hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether, both used in an official government statement.
In its official response, the foreign ministry had blamed "vested interests" and suggested that 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 temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible," the foreign ministry had said.
Senior Congress leaders have questioned why the government had got "rattled" by social media reactions from people living abroad.
"When singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg sought to express solidarity with the Indian farmers, why are we getting so much rattled?" Congress's Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
Pointing out that US had not been fazed either by a section of Indians seeking vote for Donald Trump, or protesting against the brutality on George Floyd, Mr Choudhury tweeted: "We are living in a global village. Why should we be afraid of any criticism".