Rihanna’s tweet will save lives [OP/ED]

Despite the slew of government propaganda, farmers have peacefully set up camp at the main borders where citizens have p...

A 6-word tweet by the singer, actor and businesswoman Rihanna will save lives

 

The Back Ground

This is what it has come to in the largest democracy in the world, where the Indian government have hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens waiting outside of their capital city Delhi, during this wait 200 of them have died, countless are injured and many have simply disappeared off the face of the earth.

They have been waiting for the last 2 months in the harsh Indian winter for some sort of acknowledgment from their government, instead, they have been met with deathly silence, they have been met with smear campaigns from their own people, they have been met with barricades, tear gas, water cannons and bullets. The Indian citizens have been met with police brutality who are acting on the orders of the authorities to protect the status quo ‘the largest democracy in the world’.  The same authorities who took an oath to protect the rights of their citizens to provide for their wellbeing and happiness, enforce laws fairly and ensure public safety but intriguingly the most important of them all is to protect the right to freedom of speech. As I write this, I assure myself this is not an intro to a novel depicting a dystopian society, this is real, this is here and now, this is India.

New Farm Bills

The Indian citizens are from the farming communities who are protesting 3 agricultural bills passed through parliament that aim to deregulate farming as India knows it, the simplest way I understood it was if one day parliament passed a law abolishing minimum wage, where corporations/employers could set the price to what they would pay you even if that was to be £3 an hour. For the ones willing to work 22 hours in the day it’s not so bad but for part time mums working less than 16 hours this would be detrimental financially and morally. In the same way farmers who have 100 acres of land could benefit from these bills however in reality India farmers on average cultivate 5 acres of land or smaller. Large corporations are not going to be willing to work with small farmers thus forcing farmers into bankruptcy and corporations seizing the lands. This Is going to cripple the already vulnerable farmers of India who are reeling from the impact of large debts amassed leading to a ludicrous number of suicides within the farming community, the new bills will surely send the farmers over the edge leaving the families in financial disarray. 

Process Bypassed

The conflict between the farmers and the Indian government have arisen due to parliament ratifying agricultural bills; also referred to as ‘Death warrants for farmers’, during the global pandemic, this was done deviating from the usual legal route from which bills are formally passed. How so? Well before a bill is ratified steps are taken to ensure that the bill is in the best of interests of the nation, more importantly in the interests of those who will be directed effected by it. During the later stages experts and interested parties have an opportunity to offer testimony or revise the bill, no such step was sanctioned by the Indian authorities, on the contrary all opposition was ignored or removed from parliament and when farming union representatives called for meetings to discuss the repealing of the laws? They were dismissed.

Largest Strike In History

Cue a nationwide general strike invoking 250 million citizens of India from all different religions and backgrounds in support of farmers unions. Currently the protestors are at a standoff as they have announced they will occupy the borders of the capital city and will not leave until the 3 agricultural bills are revoked. Despite the slew of government propaganda, farmers have peacefully set up camp at the main borders where citizens have pulled together to provide safe drinking water, clean sanitary provisions as well as providing langar for whosoever wishes to partake in it. This has been greatly appreciated by the vulnerable locals who have expressed that normally during the cold winter months food is scarce and they are almost unashamedly glad that the protestors have settled nearby so that they and their families do not have to worry about where the next meal will come from. Farmers in India are highly respected and to show this respect they are referred to as ‘An Dataa’ translated in layman terms ‘feeder’ though they may not be on their farms cultivating lands to provide the food they eat daily, here they are on the outskirts of the city providing langar for thousands - the irony of it is almost comical.

Crushing The Movement

As the days and weeks progress without resolution so does the danger of the state sponsored attacks on its vulnerable citizens (if the 26th of January 2021 was anything to go by). 150 protestors are still missing with reports coming in that they are in Tihar jail, India’s most dangerous prison. Peaceful protestors were met with tear gas shells fired at their face while they rode on their tractors on the official approved protest route one farmer dying from being shot with a bullet. State sponsored goons were hired to ignite violence between the camps in order to change the narrative of the protest with the help of social media on the 26th January 2020, both #FarmersProtest and #HistoricTractorRalley were trending. The hashtag #FarmersGenocide somewhat made the government uncomfortable as they sought ‘emergency blocking of 257 URLs and 1 hashtag under section 69 A of the information technology act, twitter suspended the accounts of prominent influencers within the community specifically Sikhs in order to subdue the backlash from concerned parties and once again to maintain the status quo of ‘The largest democracy in the world’.

Farmers were brutally attacked during the peaceful protest and when farmers responded in self-defence under section 96 of IPC. The state media filmed this and reported that the farmers (specifically Sikhs) were inciting violence and used this to sway the narrative towards Sikhs vs Hindu triggering the emotions of Indian citizens taking them back to the Delhi 1984 riots (where it Is said an entire generation of Sikh men were wiped out and hundreds of women raped and killed by state sponsored goons).

Extreme Rhetoric

Reading the twitter comments from so called ‘nationalists’ they are promoting ‘tyre treatment’ referring to Sikh men and boys who were subjected to horrific abuse, they were ringed with burning tyres – the tyres were their unusual choice of weapons used. A media blackout was then enforced as internet was cut around Delhi borders why would the state need to resort such tactics if the farmers were at fault and there was no foul play on their part? This was all too familiar, these awful nostalgic sentiments lingered in the air in Delhi as well as the Twittersphere like a bad smell as we were reminded of India’s history of war crimes against their own citizens.

On the 26th January, Journalists began challenging the state narratives and were reporting on the violence being incited by the state which lead to all social media platforms being inundated with images and videos of Police brutality being used even on doctors who were treating police officers caught in crossfires between protestors and goons as reported by DR Swaiman Singh an NRI field doctor who stayed in Delhi to serve both farmers and the police. Independent Journalists were being tracked using face recognition devices and this was later used to arrest them, the largest democracy in the world was silencing its citizens and its reporters. 

Not Too Long Ago...

Since the protest rally their divide and rule Sikhs vs Hindu narrative backfired, thousands of tractors for Uttarakhand and Haryana made their way with their families and little children to join their brothers and sisters at the Ghazipur border. A sight to behold from Birdseye view photographs, it was a reminder that humans united under 1 umbrella fighting for a cause without fear just faith in the almighty and love can topple any dictatorship and manipulative foul play.

The last few weeks the state and Delhi police have been barricading borders with large cement blocks, huge police presence and those goons again dressed in police uniform, some pretending to be locals who are coming causing unrest within the camps using violence beating our elderly vulnerable farmers. Once again this is all too familiar when looking at India’s history of Human rights violations, farmers are preparing for the worst but do so with smiles on their face. Their faith stands strong, they continue to meditate together under the umbrella of God they unite with love, the almighty will hear their calls they shall not go answered. 

Cultural Influencers

The deafening silence from celebrities, politicians and influencers outside of the Indian Diaspora has been shocking. Is the largest protest rally in the world seriously going to be ignored? 

Cue Rihanna, 6 words of simplicity echoed the sentiments of millions of people all over the world, a sigh of relief for farmers and their supporters. But why? It’s just 6 words? What’s the big deal? 100m followers is why. Social media influencers have the ability to reach out to a large audience through their platform.

Twitter recently conducted a survey that showed that nearly 40% of twitter users say they purchased a product immediately after being tweeted by the social media influencer. In another survey conducted it was proven that consumers found celebrity endorsements more attractive and influential as compared to non - celebrity endorsements.

Narrative Battle

Putting this into context Rihanna’s tweet has not only got the world listening but her tweet has invoked activity on the Twittersphere, it has been 2 days since she tweeted and its garnered more traction from other celebrities – even a donation towards farmer’s medical bills. The government having been silent for 60 + days know all too well about the impact of a celebrity influencer and has compelled the Ministry of external affairs to put out a statement also asking Bollywood celebrities to promote the statement that asks people to not be misinformed by propaganda with a wonderfully curated yet ironically cute #IndiaAgainstPropaganda 

The very people who the bills are going to benefit – Ambani and Adani (the Indian versions of Jeff Bezos and Warren buffet), are also the same people who have heavily invested financial interests in the Bollywood entertainment country as well as national sports teams such as the IPL (Indian premier league for Cricket), consequently making it difficult for Bollywood actors to speak out as well as sports personalities at the risk of derailing their careers and/or being labelled as anti- nationalists (remember Kaepernick, India doesn't have anyone speaking like him!). Fun fact – Adani recently renamed his Australian business group to ‘Bravus’ mistakenly thinking it mean ‘courageous’ in Latin, when in fact Latin experts claim the definition of ‘Bravus’ is crooked, deformed, mercenary or assassin. 

The outrage over media blackout and the silencing of its own citizens is warranted when you put it all into context. The state owns most traditional platforms of media or have financial interests in media outlets, friends of the state own entertainment industries, telecom businesses and now trying to acquire the agricultural market. Therefore making it easier to control the narrative that the authorities aim to pedal. Social media is not state owned and there should be space for freedom of expression and freedom of speech. So, the interference from the government to silence people and attempt to control the narrative online as well as those doing grassroot movements has enraged people all over the world.

Popping The Bubble

Rihanna is not from the Indian Diaspora she has 100m followers from all walks of life – some Indian but not all. Her 6 words have spurred on many who have wanted to retweet but stopped before they tapped or clicked, her words have got the attention of the Black community who are not alien to atrocities and injustice. As they fought for years to bring about a solid movement using social media to spread the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter with the help of celebrity influencers.  Her words have got the attention of the ‘do it for the ‘gram’ community which means more exposure for the farmers cause, her words have given confidence to the Indian diaspora who haven’t wanted to attach themselves to the protest or any political nuances, but since Rihanna’s tweet this issue now demands their attention.

The importance is that the farmer’s plight has caught the attention of 100m followers, and the Indian authorities will have to tread carefully, they will continue to spread propaganda and silence the independent journalists online as well as influencers who are creating social awareness. But they cannot use their old bullish tactics to incite mass murders or genocides as the world is truly watching.

Why Aren't We!?

I would like to end on a thought as for me Rihanna’s 6 words have reiterated the question why aren’t we talking about this? do we not want to mess up our Instagram grid? Is it too political? Is it too religious and you don’t want to be associated with the negativity? Is their fear of the Government? Maybe the farmers won’t win I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history – let’s just see how this plays out. Perhaps we do not want to ruin any chances of future opportunities with companies who pay us to endorse their products? Which brings me to the questions what are we using our platform for? Is it simply enough to tweet about atrocities happening around the world or do we also need to get behind the movement and actually believe in bringing about change in the world? What is our moral standing? Where do we draw the line?

These questions need to be asked we need to have the conversation with ourselves and one another without judgment as its 2021 there’s no longer space for duality as the age of aquarius enters new depths forcing us to pick a side as we no longer have the ability to sit in duality (or on the fence) in all aspects of our life. We are being required to see ourselves for who we are, we must come face to face to meet the reflection we see with courage and dignity and resolve any inner conflicts giving them healing and/or love in order to strengthen our spiritual psyche so we are able to go out and make a difference in this world whether it be online or in a social setting. Working on our spiritual psyche daily will in turn define the legacy we leave behind, as individuals we are powerful behind measure, together we are the force of light to be reckoned with. 

Sikhi View

Rihanna has proved through 6 words of truth and the power of having a social media platform amassing a huge following of 100m and putting that power behind the right causes can save lives. Politics is not something to be afraid of because in my humble opinion our Gurus were governments in their entirety they were walking beacons of light who through their 10 bodies paved the way in providing justice, defending the rights for freedom of expression and freedom of speech. They gave hope to downtrodden women and paved the way for empowered women to have a voice, anywhere the Gurus went they lifted the morale of the citizens of state.

The word 'politics' maybe be maligned now by the ones in power, but as Sikhs we must comprehend that politics is infused into our glorious heritage. One cannot walk onto the ‘Parkarma’ of Sri Harmandir Sahib and ignore the self-imposing Akaal Takht Sahib, the throne of the master of the spiritual and temporal way of life, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. We cannot pay respect to to the Miri without bowing to the Piri, there is no reason to be afraid of the word as we were gifted the template to unite humanity and to serve and if ever a time to rule then rule justly and compassionately with Dharma the righteous way of life as the nucleus and the expansive consciousness of the almighty as our shelter which is held up by the 3 pillars of Sikhi.

Ripples to Waves

6 words and 1 innocent question has injected hope into the movement and given fuel to march on to defeat the entrenched capitalist agendas that are at the forefront of our modern-day society. Rihanna’s 6 words has proved it doesn’t take an article to turn ripples into waves. 6 Words turned ripples into a tsunami of hope.

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