Storm in Maha Assembly Over Farmers’ Protest Tweets by Celebs

Deshmukh said a probe would be conducted to know if celebrities were being “arm-twisted” into favouring the Centre.

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India
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Deshmukh said a probe would be conducted to know if celebrities were being “arm-twisted” into favouring the Centre. Image used for representation. 
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The Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday, 2 March, saw a heated exchange between Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, over the ‘probe’ into tweets by celebrities on the farmers’ protests, after international personalities had highlighted the internet suspension at the protest sites.

Training guns at the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikka Aghadi (MVA) government in the state, Fadnavis said that icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar were being targetted.

While Fadnavis accused the government of targetting those who tweeted in the nation’s interest, Deshmukh said that members of the BJP IT cell were being probed and not the celebrities.

WHAT WERE THE TWEETS AND WHAT IS THE CONTROVERSY?

After American pop star Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg voiced their support for the farmers’ protests and questioned the suspension of internet at protest sites, a number of Bollywood personalities and celebrities had tweeted, saying that the protests were in fact an internal matter of India and used hashtags like #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.

The ones who tweeted included Akshay Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Sunil Shetty, Ajay Devgan, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, and Saina Nehwal, among others.

Several celebrities were also called out for tweeting identical sentences and words in their tweets, and were accused of overlooking the farmers’ demands at the request of the Central government.

While few tweets shared some similarities, many tweets were completely identical.

WHAT PROBE DID THE MAHARASHTRA GOVT ORDER AFTER THE TWEETS?

The Maharashtra Congress, an ally in the MVA government, appealed to the state’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to investigate if national icons had tweeted their statements under political pressure. Maharashtra Congress leader Sachin Sawant cited the timing, content, and context of the tweets, saying that it seemed they ‘were all given a script’ and requested Deshmukh to probe the matter.

Deshmukh had assured Sawant that the intelligence department would conduct an inquiry and probe whether Tendulkar, Mangeshkar, and other famous celebrities were pressured to tweet in support of the Centre.

Deshmukh had said that it will be probed whether any of the national icons were “arm-twisted” into favouring the Central government.

WHAT DID FADNAVIS ALLEGE IN THE ASSEMBLY?

Fadnavis attacked the MVA government in the Assembly and asked if it was a crime to tweet in favour of the country.

“Is it wrong to say in this country that 'India stands united'? Someone gets up and complains to the home minister,” Fadnavis said, and asked Deshmukh to “think well before entertaining such complaints,” according to PTI.

“Let’s assume for a minute that I asked them to do so (post tweets). What offence did I commit? What offence have I committed if I asked celebrities to side with the country, if there is propaganda going on against it?” the former chief minister was quoted by PTI.

WHAT WAS HM DESHMUKH’S REBUTTAL?

Dismissing Fadnavis' allegations, Deshmukh said that no celebrity was being probed and the probe was in fact against a few BJP IT cell members.

“I did not speak about probing Tendulkar or Mangeshkar. I had talked about probing the IT cell of a political party, which I am not naming,” Deshmukh said as quoted by PTI.

“It was probed. Names of 12 people have come to the fore in this connection and further action is being taken against them,” he added.

Deshmukh later said in the House that the concerned IT cell is of the BJP, PTI reported.

(With inputs from PTI)

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