Does the sovereignty of a country trump human rights?

The celebrities need to be reminded that human rights are sacrosanct, and it can’t be pushed under the carpet under the garb of protecting “nationalistic” sentiments. The world is watching.

Nazma Parveen,

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An innocuous question by global pop sensation Rihanna, “Why aren’t we talking about this”, referring to the farmer protests in India, acted as a catalyst for what may be considered as one of the biggest coordinated campaigns by Indian film and sports fraternity. Within a few hours of the tweet by Rihanna, which was in response to a CNN article, an array of Bollywood and cricket stars promptly lined up and tweeted in unwavering solidarity and loyalty for the country, and reiterated the 70’s trope of “our internal matter”.

When stars descended

Spearheading the impressive lineup was none other than BJP’s blue-eyed boy Akshay Kumar, who has been giving us crash courses in nationalism since he took the baton in 2014 when his movie Holiday came out. Not far behind, were our 90’s action heroes like Ajay Devgan and the almost defunct Sunil Shetty. Their copy paste tweets, replete with the Government hashtags, was nothing less than a social media spectacle of sorts. Soon afterwards, Bollywood director Karan Johar, who has been a victim of social media bullying since past few months, especially by right-wing trolls, tweeted as well. His half-hearted attempt at framing a statement reflected in his tweet, and whether dropping the #IndiaAgainstPropaganda hashtag, was deliberate or not, remains a mystery. Same goes for the Indian Cricket team Captain Virat Kohli, and many others who tweeted in a non-committal way as if fulfilling a task. Within next few hours, we saw more celebrities, including legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, paying odes to the sovereignty of India, all in response to a tweet by a pop singer. What was unprecedented was MEA releasing a formal statement, in response to a tweet by a singer of foreign origin. It must be a first, where a Government body releases an official statement, to counter a statement made by the private citizen of a different country.

Internal matter? 

While all these social media declarations of loyalty and unquestionable dedication to the country is heartwarming, to say the least, what’s telling, is that all these patriotic celebs have maintained a stoic silence over the past few months, when thousands of farmers have been protesting in biting cold and extreme conditions. There wasn’t a single tweet from the said celebrities to pacify the farmers or quell their insecurities.

Notable to mention here, that the tweet by Rihanna followed by many other international icons like Greta Thunberg was giving their opinion about the farm laws, but trying to bring attention to the unconstitutional use of power by the state, which included snapping of internet and building barricades to quell the farmer’s protest. It was therefore quite amusing to witness these stars suddenly wake up from a slumber of almost four months and discover that the sovereignty of the country is under threat. This begs the question that is the sovereignty of the country more important than basic human rights and can sovereignty be used as an excuse to trample over human rights? Can human right violations be considered an internal matter because if that be the case, Pandora’s box will open?

Conspiracy theories

Quite predictably, the kind of international attention a tweet by Rihanna attracted for the farmer protests left the ruling dispensation fuming with indignation. Ideally, the government could have just ignored the tweet and moved on but predictably it decided to go hammer and tongs against the pop star, by activating its infamous IT cell, which then went all out, slut-shaming and dragging Rihanna’s domestic abuse incident and even going to the extent of morphing her image with a Pakistan flag. How can any conspiracy theory be complete without the Pakistan angle? If there isn’t one, it is concocted, courtesy our ingenious IT cell experts. News channels started its high decibel debates, pontificating about the much elusive, foreign powers, who want to malign the image of India on a global platform. Because, how is it possible that an international celebrity will talk about human right violations on her own accord and without any ulterior motive apart from a basic human instinct? When our homegrown celebrities, barring a few, don’t even let out a whimper, when the civil rights of their fellow citizens are bulldozed day in and day out, why are these foreign nationals poking their nose in our internal matters? Why should images of old men, being lathi-charged and water cannoned, be a matter of concern for outsiders, when a major section of the country has been made to believe that they deserve it? Of course, there must be a conspiracy behind people speaking up against brutal use of power to clamp down on people using their democratic rights to protest, in the world’s largest democracy.

The disproportional and unnecessary reaction to a mere tweet once again exposes the insecurities and fragile ego of a regime that went to such great lengths to give a rebuttal to a foreign entity, that too a non-state individual, who was speaking in her personal capacity. I would like to ask all these celebrities singing paeans of sovereignty, what does sovereignty mean to them? Does snapping the internet of a state for an entire year, caging of activists and students, jailing of comedians and journalists and persecuting farmers, strengthen the sovereignty of the country? It says a lot about these celebrities, when their sensibilities don’t get offended when the farmers were being called terrorists by the mouthpieces of the same Government that promised to uphold the sovereignty of the country. I think these celebrities need to be reminded that human rights are sacrosanct, and it can’t be pushed under the carpet under the garb of protecting “nationalistic” sentiments. The world is watching.