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Indian footballers speak out for farmers, when others back government

Indian footballers speak out for farmers, when others back government

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 5 Feb 2021 6:49 AM GMT

A number of Indian footballers have come out to voice their support for agitating farmers even as notable names from other sporting avenues continue to be unofficial mouthpieces for the government. Chennaiyin FC players Germanpreet Singh, Deepak Tangri, Edwin Vanspaul and Anirudh Thapa have all tweeted their stand in the last couple of days along with ATK Mohun Bagan’s Michael Soosairaj. Thapa, a prominent figure in the national team, also quoted Shashi Tharoor’s recent tweet on the issue with a caption that read “Let’s be democratic again”.


Farmers in Northern India have been protesting against three newly framed agriculture laws for over two months now. The protests, which kickstarted on November 26, are centred around the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Initially the protests were going on around a few borders of Delhi, but post the violence that occurred during the tractor rally on Republic Day, the agitation has started permeating the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Although there have been 11 rounds of discussion between the farmers’ representatives and the government, what drove mainstream media and the upper echelons of power to voice their collective support for the centre was international singer, songwriter Rihanna’s tweet regarding the protests. She was joined in by others like teen activist Greta Thunberg (against whom an FIR has already been filed), former adult film star Mia Khalifa, Amanda Cerny as well as a few others. The Ministry of External Affairs responded thereafter, saying that the situation was an internal dispute and adding that celebrities should not indulge in propagating “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments”, before adding the hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda in the statement themselves.

This was followed by a barrage of tweets by movie stars as well as sports figures like Karan Johar, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Ravi Shastri, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, PT Usha and Saina Nehwal. All of them used either or both of the hashtags mentioned in the government’s statement to reaffirm their support for the way the centre is handling the issue. Some others like Kangana Ranaut have gone on to suggest that it isn’t in fact farmers that are agitating but Khalistani supporters and ‘anti-nationals’. A few of her tweets have since been deleted by the platform for inciting violence.


At the other end of the spectrum are personalities like Priyanka Chopra, Tapsee Pannu and Diljit Dosanjh who, like the aforementioned footballers, have stood up for farmers. What is even more amusing is that most of those who have tweeted using the government-propagated hashtags have rarely ever taken a stand on any socio-political issue previously. Which brings us to the question, in an increasingly globalized world, can an issue as big as this stay an ‘internal matter’?

When George Floyd was shot down by a couple of policemen thousands of kilometres away from India, it sparked a debate on the issue of racism even here and rightly so. This is not to compare the two situations since they are of a completely different nature. This is just to reiterate that human rights issues like these need a bipartisan approach in their handling, something that has been lacking in our national level polity for quite some time now. Besides, we haven’t really done a stellar job of handling ‘internal matters’ like gender abuse, caste injustice and honour killing in our country for decades now, so there’s that.

For a country like ours that is hugely delusional about its own greatness, it is probably time to re-evaluate who we want to put on a pedestal. Alongside that, it is even more important to acknowledge that criticising the government can never be something based on which one can pass a scathing indictment of an individual’s love for his or her country.

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