22:24 GMT04 March 2021
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    Last week, famous pop singer Rihanna tweeted in support of farmers protesting in India against three new farm laws passed by the Modi government last September. Following this, several other celebs and activists, including model Mia Khalifa and US Vice President Kamala Harris' niece, have expressed solidarity with Indian farmers.

    India's Maharashtra state government will probe celebrities, including recipients of the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, such as legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and singer Lata Mangeshkar, who have supported the new farm laws. 

    Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said tweets by celebrities countering pop icon Rihanna's tweet to support the ongoing farmers' protest will be investigated.

    "It has been revealed that there were the same posts by celebrities and the same time. Hence, it will be investigated why it has happened", Desmukh said. 

    The development comes a day after the Congress, a governing alliance party in the state, demanded a probe by the police into the tweets to find out if the celebrities had been pressured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to tweet in support of the government.

    Minutes after the announcement by the state home minister, the federally governing BJP’s social media unit slammed the Maharashtra authorities, saying it is an insult to legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar. 

    ​Online Battle Over Rihanna's Support for Protesting Farmers

    After Rihanna voiced support for the protesting farmers in India, several Indian celebrities and cricketers took to Twitter, urging people to stand united and not fall prey to any propaganda against India or Indian policies.

    The Indian External Affairs Ministry in a statement said that the foreign celebs tweets are "not accurate" and they need to have a proper understanding of the issues. 

    "The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible. 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 ministry stated.

    Since 26 November 2020, thousands of farmers have been protesting on the outskirts of the national capital and have blocked roads in India's Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states. They are demanding a complete rollback of the laws passed in the parliament by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in September 2020.

    The protests have been ongoing over several bills, including the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. 

    According to the government, the laws allow farmers to sell their produce at places apart from their designated agricultural market. They also aim at allowing contract farming under which they can enter into supply agreements with private firms for remunerative and pre-decided prices.

    Many farmers believe that the new laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system (MSP), leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

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