Raji Aujla: Rihanna Enters The Arena

The circulation of one supporting tweet from Rihanna expands the reach of a dissidence movement far beyond the walls of India’s border

Raji Aujla
February 2, 2021 | 2.5 min. read

The farmers’ protests in India reached a new power: Rihanna

The circulation of one supporting tweet from Rihanna expands the reach of a dissidence movement far beyond the walls of India’s border. 

Rihanna’s activism responds to political negligence with a currency that is beyond social or political. It’s cultural. It is ours and places us into this system of power that the Modi government is trying to exclude us from. 

The power of Rihanna’s tweet today far outweighs any opposing hate from far-right influences, like that of Modi’s digital army or actress Kangana Ranaut. It reaches new artists and activists from institutions like Greta Thunberg, Vogue, Meena Harris, and Human Rights Watch.  

Modi’s leadership has remained as silent on the plight of farmers as India’s cultural economy, mainly Bollywood. Instead, an international network of artists and organizations are calling for a peaceful resolution, addressing their growing concerns over censorship, human rights violations, and the arbitrary detention of journalists

The world is now learning what we already knew - that India’s democracy has always been in this peril. 

The Chief Minister responsible for the 2002 Gujarat pogrom against Muslims is currently serving as the Prime Minister of India. His hard power has led the nation to experience abrupt demonetization, revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy, privatization and deregulation of the national economy, rise Hindu of nationalism with increased caste supremacy and minority lynching, state-sponsored violence and brutality, intolerance of minority religions, and criminalizing dissent. 

Modi’s political position is motivated by Hindutva, conflating Hinduism with Indianness. His first attempt to stop the movement was by attacking the Sikh identity. He utilized his outdated political tactic of malign, divide, deflect. The initial attacks were on the Punjabi Sikh identity, maligning the movement, deflecting it as “Khalistani”. 

However, as the protests remained steadfast and peaceful our cultural currency grew.

He then attempted to intimidate the movement by empowering his BJP IT Cells to spread disinformation, attacking anybody who wrote against the government. In response, images and videos flooded social media of police brutality against farmers, many of whom were elders.  Diasporic artists from Babbu The Painter to Rupi Kaur and Punjabi singers from Diljit Dosanjh to Babbu Maan began utilizing their platforms to advocate for social justice. 

Now Modi attempts to quell swelling protest movements with his tried and tested strategic tactic, silencing digital dissent. 

The government has increased censorship, administered Internet shutdown in protest areas, all while employing Twitter and Facebook to suspend activist and advocacy accounts. We are currently witnessing India’s meltdown, a failed attempt to use its hard power to control its soft power. 

Rihanna’s one tweet collapses the temporal distance of these protests and reaches newer global audiences, giving the farmers a new energy and the government more global and cultural pressure it cannot censor.

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Raji Aujla is the founder of Willendorf Cultural Planning focusing on better representation and inclusion of IBPOC voices in Canadian arts and culture. Follow her on Instagram: @raji.aujla


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