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Furious Indians burn posters of the eco-campaigner after she wades into farmer protests dispute

A tweet by Greta Thunberg has led to the launch of a criminal conspiracy probe into a ‘toolkit’ for supporters of Indian farmers protesting against controversial agricultural reforms.

On Tuesday the teenage climate activist shared, then promptly deleted, a Google document containing advice on how to amplify farmer’s voices and raise attention to the protests, which have been ongoing since November.

The toolkit included sample social media posts and advice for what a ‘Celebrity/Influential Person’ could tweet to show their support.

Tips included retweeting a recent post by Barbadian musician Rihanna that prompted outrage in India and was described as ‘irresponsible’ by Indian officials.

Thunberg, 18, later reaffirmed her support for farmers, tweeting an updated version of the toolkit and along with the hashtag #StandWithFarmers. 

On Thursday, demonstrators from the United Hindu Front burned effigies of Thunberg and Rihanna in New Delhi in response to the tweets. 

A tweet by Greta Thunberg has led to the launch of a criminal conspiracy probe into a ‘toolkit’ for supporters of Indian farmers protesting against controversial agricultural reforms. Pictured: Hindu protesters burn an effigy of Thunberg in New Delhi on Thursday

On Tuesday the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg shared, then promptly deleted, a Google document containing advice on how to amplify farmer's voices and raise attention to the protests, which have been ongoing since November. The toolkit included sample social media posts and advice for what a 'Celebrity/Influential Person' could tweet to show their support. Pictured: Protesters burn an effigy of Thunberg in New Delhi

On Tuesday the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg shared, then promptly deleted, a Google document containing advice on how to amplify farmer’s voices and raise attention to the protests, which have been ongoing since November. The toolkit included sample social media posts and advice for what a ‘Celebrity/Influential Person’ could tweet to show their support. Pictured: Protesters burn an effigy of Thunberg in New Delhi

Tips in the toolkit included retweeting a recent post by Barbadian musician Rihanna that prompted outrage in India and was described as 'irresponsible' by Indian officials. Pictured: Rihanna's effigy is burned alongside Thunberg's in New Delhi on Thursday

Tips in the toolkit included retweeting a recent post by Barbadian musician Rihanna that prompted outrage in India and was described as ‘irresponsible’ by Indian officials. Pictured: Rihanna’s effigy is burned alongside Thunberg’s in New Delhi on Thursday

Officials have accused ‘foreign individuals’ and celebrities of ‘sensationalism’ in their comments about the protests.  

On Thursday, Delhi police launched a First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the toolkit. The FIR allows police to begin an investigation into a potential crime.

‘We haven’t named anybody in the FIR, it’s only against the creators of the toolkit which is a matter of investigation & Delhi Police will be investigating that case,’ Praveer Ranjan, special commissioner of police for Delhi said in response to earlier reports that the FIR had been launched against Thunberg herself.    

‘Preliminary enquiry has revealed that the toolkit in question appears to have been created by a pro-Khalistani Organisation ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’, Ranjan said.

India Today reported that the FIR has been lodged under the Indian Penal Code’s Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), and 120B (criminal conspiracy).  

Thunberg, 18, posted then deleted a Google document with advice on how to amplify the voices of protesting Indian farmers

Thunberg, 18, posted then deleted a Google document with advice on how to amplify the voices of protesting Indian farmers

The advice included suggested social media posts for celebrities and influential individuals to share

The advice included suggested social media posts for celebrities and influential individuals to share 

On Thursday, Delhi police launched a First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the toolkit. The FIR allows police to begin an investigation into a potential crime

On Thursday, Delhi police launched a First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the toolkit. The FIR allows police to begin an investigation into a potential crime

Thunberg, 18, later reaffirmed her support for farmers, tweeting an updated version of the toolkit and along with the hashtag #StandWithFarmers

Thunberg, 18, later reaffirmed her support for farmers, tweeting an updated version of the toolkit and along with the hashtag #StandWithFarmers

Indian farmers have been protesting for nearly three months, demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say will favour large corporate farms and devastate the earnings of smaller scale farmers.

The contentious legislation has exacerbated existing resentment from farmers, who have long been seen as the heart and soul of India but often complain of being ignored by the government.

Tens of thousands of farmers are camping out to protest against the new laws on the outskirts of Delhi where India has suspended some of the local mobile internet services, citing ‘public safety’.

The protest drew global attention last week when a tractor rally by farmers ended in violent clashes – previously unseen in these protests – during which one protester died and hundreds were injured.

In her tweet on Tuesday, Rihanna urged her 101million followers to pay attention to the ongoing protests.  

Her comment was retweeted more than 230,000 times and liked by over half a million users.

In her tweet on Tuesday, Rihanna urged her 101million followers to pay attention to the ongoing protests

In her tweet on Tuesday, Rihanna urged her 101million followers to pay attention to the ongoing protests

Rihanna's message of support was retweeted more than 230,000 times and liked by over half a million users but drew criticism from some inside India, including a government minister who branded it 'irresponsible' [File photo]

Rihanna’s message of support was retweeted more than 230,000 times and liked by over half a million users but drew criticism from some inside India, including a government minister who branded it ‘irresponsible’ [File photo]

Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris also tweeted in support of the farmers on Tuesday

Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris also tweeted in support of the farmers on Tuesday 

Rihanna’s tweet, which sent her name to the top of social media trends in India, sparked huge support around the world but also drew sharp criticism from some within India.

Thunberg and US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris both tweeted in solidarity with the striking farmers within hours of Rihanna.  

‘We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,’ wrote Harris, whose mother was born in India.

British MP Claudia Webbe also expressed her support for the farmers. In a retweet, she said: ‘Thank you Rihanna. In an era where political leadership is lacking, we are grateful for others stepping forward.’  

The tweets triggered an online storm in India, where the farmers’ protests have become one of the biggest challenges to Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.  

India’s external affairs ministry said in a Wednesday statement that the Indian parliament had passed ‘reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector’ following a full debate and discussion and urged people to acquaint themselves with the facts of the issue ‘before rushing to comment on such matters’.

‘The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,’ it added.  

Indian farmers have been protesting for nearly three months, demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say will favour large corporate farms and devastate the earnings of smaller scale farmers. Pictured: Rakesh Tikait (centre in white), the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of the largest farmers' unions in India, arrives at a protests in Kandela village in Jind on Wednesday

Indian farmers have been protesting for nearly three months, demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say will favour large corporate farms and devastate the earnings of smaller scale farmers. Pictured: Rakesh Tikait (centre in white), the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of the largest farmers’ unions in India, arrives at a protests in Kandela village in Jind on Wednesday

The contentious legislation on agrarian reform has exacerbated existing resentment from farmers, who have long been seen as the heart and soul of India but often complain of being ignored by the government. Pictured: Protesters in Kandela village in Jind on Tuesday

The contentious legislation on agrarian reform has exacerbated existing resentment from farmers, who have long been seen as the heart and soul of India but often complain of being ignored by the government. Pictured: Protesters in Kandela village in Jind on Tuesday

Security personnel sit next to police barricades along a blocked highway at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border on Thursday as farmers continue to protest against the central government's agricultural reforms

Security personnel sit next to police barricades along a blocked highway at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border on Thursday as farmers continue to protest against the central government’s agricultural reforms

There were also others who criticised Rihanna for wading into the protests against the laws which have been backed by the government and its supporters. 

Members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters regularly brand their critics traitors, propagandists and ‘anti-nationals’.

Some Indians tweeted in support of Rihanna, but others were not pleased, with her remarks getting abusive replies.

Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, a supporter of Modi’s BJP, replied to Rihanna’s post by calling the protesters ‘terrorists who are trying to divide India’.

‘No one is talking about it because they are not farmers, they are terrorists who are trying to divide India,’ she wrote.

Prominent Indian celebrities including actor Akshay Kumar and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar have also rallied behind the government. 

Modi has said the laws are necessary to modernise India’s agriculture sector but has tried to distance himself from the fray in recent weeks.

Farmers fear they would be placed at the mercy of big corporations if the laws came into effect.

Twitter temporarily blocked scores of accounts tweeting about the protests on Monday at the demand of the Indian government, while police have detained dozens of farmers and a journalist.

India – the world’s largest democracy – regularly uses internet shutdowns to limit information sharing during disturbances. 


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