In what detractors see is a clear attempt to needle India, US Vice President Kamala Harris' niece Meena and some international celebrities, infamous for their poor understanding of India’s domestic politics, on Wednesday extended their support to the agitating farmers; the government, in a strong reaction, which sceptics said went over the top, described them as part of "vested interest groups."
It further dismissed their support as "sensationalist social media hashtags and comments" which are "neither accurate nor responsible."
Earlier, a Twitter frenzy broke when American pop singer Rihanna on Tuesday night posted a news link on India's farmers' protest and tweeted, "why aren't we talking about this?!" It triggered widespread outrage with many questioning Rihanna's credentials and knowledge about India's internal matters.
This was followed by Greta Thunberg, the celebrity teenager famous for her environmental activism, tweeting, "We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India."
Meena Harris on Wednesday morning joined the chorus. "It's no coincidence that the world's oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We all should be outraged by India's internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters," she tweeted.
To add to the mirth, Lebanese-American former pornographic actress Mia Khalifa also joined the bandwagon by posting a picture of Indian women protesters with a comment, "What in the human rights violations is going on?! They cut the internet around New Delhi?! #FarmersProtest"
While their tweets got hundreds of likes and retweets from around the world, thousands of Indians, including film star Kangana Ranaut, trolled them.
In the meantime, the ministry of external affairs issued a statement lashing out at the international celebs. "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 statement said.
The Parliament, after a full debate and discussion, had passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector, the government explained. "These reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming."
The government said that a very small section of farmers in parts of India has some reservations about these reforms. "Respecting the sentiments of the protesters, the Government of India has initiated a series of talks with their representatives. Union Ministers have been part of the negotiations, and eleven rounds of talks have already been held. The Government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer reiterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India."
The ministry said, "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."
"Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India. Instigated by such fringe elements, Mahatma Gandhi statues have been desecrated in parts of the world. This is extremely disturbing for India and for civilised society everywhere," the government said.
Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint. 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.
"We would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India's democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the Government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse," the government said.