India on Wednesday hit out at tweets by global celebrities such as singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg in support of the farmers' protests, the focus of a sharply polarised international debate that saw many Bollywood stars and top ministers rally around the government in its pushback.
The 'temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments' is neither accurate nor responsible, the Ministry of External Affairs said as the international spotlight swivelled to the two-month protest to demand a rollback of three new agri laws and a host of stars, including singer Jay Sean and actor John Cusack, turned their attention to it.
Facts must be ascertained before the rush to comment, the ministry added, using the hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda to make its point.
Rihanna, among the biggest pop stars of the day with 101 million followers on Twitter, started the global chorus of support for India's farmers.
'Why aren't we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest,' she tweeted, linking a CNN news article on the internet shutdown around New Delhi as protesters clashed with the police.
Drawing more international attention to the issue, Thunberg followed soon after.
'We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India,' she tweeted.
The Swedish climate activist posted again later in the day, saying, 'Here's a toolkit if you want to help.'
It took the user to a document containing details on ways to support the protest, including creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies.
Adding to their voices were American actor Amanda Cerni, United States Vice President Kamala Harris' niece Meena Harris, Serendipity star Cusack, who retweeted a post by Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate reading, 'Let us talk about what is happening in India right now #FarmersProtest', and former adult star Mia Khalifa who asked, 'What in the human rights violations is going on?! They cut the internet around New Delhi?! #FarmersProtest.'
The lines were clearly drawn, pitting global celebs from various fields against domestic stars and politicians. And the farmers' cause gained international traction.
The pushback happened with the hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda being used in the Ministry of External Affairs statement and several Bollywood stars who joined top ministers to criticise the 'half truths' of international forces.
The tweets advised people to focus on the government's efforts to resolve the farmer crisis, sharing the Ministry of External Affairs statement that some 'vested interest groups' were trying to enforce their agenda on the protests and that a very small section of farmers in parts of the country have some reservations about the farm reforms which were passed by Parliament after full debate and discussion.
'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,' it said.
'The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,' it added.
Among those who used the two hashtags were Union Home Minister Amit Shah who said no propaganda can deter India's unity and stop the country from attaining new heights.
'Propaganda can not decide India's fate only 'Progress' can. India stands united and together to achieve progress,' Shah tweeted.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal added, 'Fearing the growing power of India, international forces are conspiring to weaken our country, and the democracy of the country.'
Many of their colleagues, including Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nirmala Sitharaman, Hardeep Singh Puri, V K Singh and Ramesh Pokhriyal, joined them.
And Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said, "We will not be cowed down by an international gang of anarchy lovers. We saw how they unleashed violence and desecrated our national flag on Republic Day. Let's unite now and defeat these forces."
Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for Youth Affairs & Sports, also used the hashtag to put forth his point.
'For 1000 of years India was defeated, occupied, looted & ruled by the invaders not because India was weak but there was always a Jaichand. We need to ask who's behind this international propaganda to defame India. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda,' he wrote on Twitter.
Their views found echo in Bollywood with actors Akshay Kumar, Kangna Ranaut and Ajay Devgn and filmmaker Karan Johar among those who urged people to be wary of false propaganda.
Kumar was among the first to share the MEA statement, saying efforts by the government to solve the issue are 'evident'.
'Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let's support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda,' Kumar wrote.
Devgn said people shouldn't 'fall for any false propaganda against India or Indian policies'.
Johar said the country shouldn't let 'anyone divide us'.
'We live in turbulent times and the need of the hour is prudence and patience at every turn. Let us together, make every effort we can to find solutions that work for everyone our farmers are the backbone of India. Let us not let anyone divide us. #IndiaTogether,' he said.
Suniel Shetty also shared the MEA response on Twitter, saying nothing is 'more dangerous than half truth'.
However, there were also voices within the Indian entertainment industry which backed the farmers.
Actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh shared a song tribute to Rihanna for her tweet and actor Ali Fazal said the issue was not 'an internal matter'.
'I also like ostrich. But I am not one. Division is good but not for people. Share love and do it unconditionally. I learnt this when I was in school. And this is not an internal matter. Past internalisation,' Fazal tweeted.
Seemingly responding to Kumar, Devgn and others, actor Richa Chadha, another vocal supporter of farmers, tweeted, 'Now confused and afraid.'
Singer Jazzy B slammed Kumar for never tweeting in favour of farmers but coming out with a tweet on propaganda now.
'You ain't Singh is king the real kings are sitting in protest! Fake king @akshaykumar,' he tweeted.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi border points since November last year, demanding the government to repeal the three farm laws and legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for their crops.
The protest sites have been turned into fortresses with police putting up multi-layer barricades and concertina wires to stop the movement of vehicles.
The strengthened security measures at the agitation sites across the Delhi borders come after the violence during the Republic Day tractor parade.