After tweets by international celebrities, foreign ministry says ‘vested interest groups’ trying to mobilise support.
The creators of an Indian farmers’ protest “toolkit” shared by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will be investigated by police, authorities said, claiming it was designed to “encourage disaffection and ill-will” against the government.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi since November, calling for a repeal of laws they fear will allow large corporations to crush them.
The tussle between the government and farmers protesting for more than two months against new agriculture laws deregulating the sector took at an international turn on Tuesday when pop superstar Rihanna and Thunberg tweeted about the mass demonstrations.
The foreign ministry hit back on Wednesday, criticising “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” by celebrities as “neither accurate nor responsible”.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) February 5, 2021
Police in the capital New Delhi, where a farmers’ tractor rally last week turned into a deadly rampage where one person died and hundreds of police officers were injured, said they had filed a complaint against the toolkit’s makers.
The complaint does not name Thunberg.
“Preliminary enquiry has revealed that the ‘toolkit’ in question appears to have been created by a pro-Khalistani Organisation ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’,” police said in a statement, citing Sikh separatists who want to create a homeland of Khalistan in India’s northern Punjab state.
Many of the protesting farmers hail from Punjab.
Police said the toolkit creators appeared to “create disharmony among various social, religious and cultural groups and encourage disaffection and ill-will against the (government) of India”.
The toolkit shared by Thunberg offers basic advice including joining on-the-ground protests and showing support on social media.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 4, 2021
Thunberg tweeted late on Thursday that she still supported the protests. “No amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change that,” she said.
Earlier on Thursday, a delegation of opposition legislators was blocked from meeting farming unions at one of the protest sites by the police.
“Even MPs are not being allowed to meet peacefully protesting farmers. This is truly a black day for democracy!” Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a legislator and former government minister from Punjab, tweeted.
Modi has said the laws are necessary to modernise India’s agriculture sector but farmers fear they would be placed at the mercy of big corporations.
The protests have become one of the biggest challenges to Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he took power in 2014.