Maharashtra: Don’t probe celebrity tweets | HT Editorial
The social media storm around the farm protests last week has now taken a new turn. First, popular artiste, Rihanna — along with others such as environmentalist Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris, niece of United States Vice-President Kamala Harris — tweeted in solidarity with the protests. The ministry of external affairs then put out a statement blaming “vested interest groups” for propaganda and put forth the government’s version. Many popular Indian figures — including cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, badminton champion Saina Nehiwal and actor Akshay Kumar, among others — tweeted using the same hashtag as the government, backing the State’s narrative on how this was a matter of Indian sovereignty.
And now, Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh has said that the state intelligence department will investigate these tweets by Indian celebrities, to check is there was pressure on them to tweet. Mr Deshmukh’s statement comes a day after the Congress in Maharashtra complained against the tweets and demanded a probe to investigate if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had exerted pressure on “national heroes” for this advocacy.
The Maharashtra government is wrong. The tweets may well have been encouraged by the central government — but as citizens, Indian celebrities have a right to tweet, irrespective of whether their view is aligned with that of the ruling party at the Centre or not. If they were under pressure, they have the right to approach the authorities concerned. But Maharashtra’s probe appears to be in line with its past attempts to browbeat pro-BJP voices in the state. This is undemocratic and the government must step back.