Sandeep Singh: Rihanna Shames Bollywood

Local Indian celebrities have mostly failed to use their platform to support protestors or even generally call out heavy-handed state violence and crackdowns

Sandeep Singh
February 3, 2021 | 3 min. read 

why aren’t we talking about this?!”

All it took was these 6 words from Rihanna to shake India. It has awakened casual observers from around the world, triggered insecurities from the Indian state, and broke the internet.

In what was a grueling week for the now months-long agitation, it was a welcomed reprieve for those on the ground. 

Navdeep Singh, hailing from Chandigarh, believes Rihanna’s tweet will help the farmers protest, “she has fans all over the world. She is a global celebrity with a massive social media following that will bring awareness for something that has not received the international media attention it deserves.”

Rihanna and related topics have been trending in India and around the world for large chunks of Tuesday and Wednesday. The public conversation it has brought with it has added another dimension to what was already a historic demonstration. 

This may seem trivial to some, but not for many on the ground. 

Local Indian celebrities have mostly failed to use their platform to support protestors or even generally call out heavy-handed state violence and crackdowns - including the arrest of journalists and censorship.

In a country where many Bollywood stars carry considerable power, the silence is striking and noticeable. Rihanna disrupts all of that.

Gurdeep Singh from Khanna is protesting at Singhu Border, and shares a common thought amongst farmers, “history will never forget how silent Bollywood has been during this agitation. These same actors play as Sikhs and do movies on farming in order to woo money away from patrons, however, they are nothing but puppets for the BJP.”

Some Bollywood actors have since spoken out about the protest but with government-sponsored language rather than revolutionary slogans. 

The Ministery of External Affairs (MEA) tweeted out a statement this morning indirectly responding to tweets from Rihanna and other global figures and institutions. Using the hashtag #IndiaAgainstPropoganda, the MEA insinuates that “vested interested” have mobilized international scrutiny “against India.” These claims have not been proven. 

Major actors have now used the MEA hashtag and tweet in speaking out about the farmers’ protest, including the much-maligned Akshay Kumar. Kumar is known for roles in which he appropriates Sikh culture and identity - including the donning of a fake beard for the movie Kesri. He had been silent on the protest to date.

Rihanna has also been subject to BJP IT Cell abuse, including disturbing tweets mocking violence against women. India has previously been recognized as one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. She has also been accused of being a terrorist, extremist, and/or paid by Pakistan and/or China.

Bollywood actor Kangana Ranau, who also flaunts that she is the recipient of the Padmashree award in her Twitter bio, in a reply to Rihanna referred to farmers as terrorists and claimed that they are trying to divide the nation so that China could take over. None of these claims have been proven and her account has not yet been suspended or withheld by Twitter.

Ranau proceeded to send out more tweets throughout the day as she spiraled further, clearly bothered by Rihanna’s 6 word tweet. She has since been in a Twitter feud with popular Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh.    

Rihanna’s tweet continues to reverberate and is significant as the government imposed internet ban around protest sites has curbed information flow. This ban, coupled with the arbitrary detention of journalists, has allowed national media to easily control and manipulate the narrative as independent reporters have been boxed out. However, sudden renewed global interest has disrupted government narratives. 

Farmers here appreciate the new international scrutiny and hope it will be a catalyst for more Indian figures to speak out in favour of them. 

Perhaps we will start hearing Rihanna songs on tractors soon. 


Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab

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