Gurpreet Singh: We need to stand with Rihanna and reciprocate her gesture by celebrating Black History Month

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      A pop singer is under attack from supporters of India's right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP government for showing solidarity with the agitating farmers.  

      Rihanna, a Barbadian American, put out a tweet last week wondering why nobody is talking about the farmers’ protest.  

      Thousands of farmers are camping near New Delhi, the national capital of the world’s so-called largest democracy, to demonstrate against controversial agricultural laws passed by the government.  

      The laws, which are aimed to give away control of agro industry to big corporations, will adversely affect the livelihood of farmers. The police have been trying to suppress the movement by using excessive measures, sparking angry reactions within the Indian diaspora both in the U.S. and Canada.  

      The one-liner tweet by Rihanna, who has a huge following, has not only enthralled the supporters of farmers’ protest, but angered the apologists of the BJP government.  

      Not surprisingly, the backlash comes from the senior ministers of the government that refuses to roll back the laws, as well as Indian film stars who have repeatedly showed their sympathy with the Indian state.

      This is despite the fact that attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under the BJP government, which aspires to turn India into Hindu theocracy.  

      Some of the actors and commentators with right-wing political affiliations have even gone to the extent of branding the agitating Sikh farmers as “antinational” and “terrorists”.  

      Jolted by the tweet of an internationally known pop singer, the BJP leaders have started accusing her of spreading false propaganda, with a handful of Indian movie stars coming to their rescue.  

      Rihanna has proved through her action how powerful even a small gesture from someone with massive fan following can be. Her tweet was picked up by Human Rights Watch and the global icon of climate justice movement, Greta Thunberg.  

      It’s a shame that the Bollywood, once known as harbinger of social justice and revolution, has become a lapdog of the BJP government either by remaining silent on the issue or shamelessly supporting the farming laws. Some of the Indian stars such as Sunny Deol and his stepmom, Hema Malini, are BJP MPs.  

      We can only wish that Indian actors and singers also show some spine and stand up for the farmers like Rihanna. Apparently, they have forgotten that the food on their table and milk in their fridges are produced by the farmers and does not come from the stores.  

      If Rihanna can think about those sitting so far away from her in their struggle for justice, why can’t the Indian movie stars come out in their support?  

      Rihanna’s tweet came as we are all celebrating the Black History Month in Canada and the U.S. It speaks volumes about the significance of cross-cultural bridges and international solidarity.

      As she is being trashed, the Indian community in this part of the world should stand up for her—and the entire Black community in their fight against systemic racism—to reciprocate her beautiful gesture, which has strengthened the farmers’ struggle worldwide.