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Pali Kaur: Ammy Virk And The Staying Power Of The Farmers' Protest
Ammy Virk steadfastly spoke against working with Zee in the future and even promoted boycotting Puaada
August 30, 2021 | 2 min. read | Opinion
After nine months of protesting Modi’s controversial laws, the farmers and laborers surrounding Delhi have a lot to be proud of. Despite many hardships, they have maintained a largely peaceful and effective presence in a difficult political landscape.
But the success of the movement does not just rely on everyday people. Popular Punjabi entertainers also helped propel the Farmers' Protest into what it is today. Stars like Ranjit Bawa and Ammy Virk were some of the big names to get immediately involved last year and amplify farmers' voices.
These popular singers and actors made a compelling case for young people to get involved in the movement - young people who were key to successfully launching the morcha.
But as the protests persisted, Punjabi entertainers openly speaking about the farmers were harder to find.
Within a few months, most celebrities, including Ammy Virk, also returned to using their art to promote the same old superficial themes, drifting away from the social justice topics from earlier this year.
Even worse, Virk’s latest movie Puaada was released by Zee Studios, an arm of Zee Group. Zee is infamous for being seen as a mouthpiece of the Indian government and for spreading disinformation about the farmers' protests.
However, as promotions for Puaada started, supporters of the kisaan morcha resisted.
A movement to boycott the movie went viral and Virk was compelled by the public to explain his actions. To his immense credit, he was able to clarify the situation by explaining that he signed his contract with Zee two years before the Farmers’ Protests started and therefore is under legal obligations.
He also steadfastly spoke against working with Zee in the future and even promoted boycotting Puaada.
The situation with Ammy Virk reveals an important possibility - perhaps the Farmers’ Protest has now become as powerful as the artists who once propelled it. The larger and more effective the protest gets, the less able leaders and celebrities are to oppose or ignore it.
While Ammy Virk did the right thing by speaking out forcefully in support of the Farmers’ Protest we need to ensure he is not the only one. Celebrities who make money off of our community need to be prepared to do the same.
This includes other artists such as Sonam Bajwa and Neeru Bajwa who both hosted popular talk shows on Zee Punjabi. This also includes Bollywood stars like Akshay Kumar who co-opt Sikh symbols in their movies to attract diasporic Punjabis audiences.
All of this matters because if the Farmers’ Protest grows to be a more widely accepted and long-term movement, the Indian government’s repressive tactics might be less successful.
Pali Kaur is a blogger and educator based out of California. She works with immigrant communities, focusing on Spanish and Punjabi speakers. You can find her on Twitter at @wittypunjaban
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