At a time when Indian celebrities and netizens demand an “amicable” solution to the prevailing farmers’ protest, the diaspora living abroad has managed to mobilise global support for the agitation. The latest platform being the American National Football League, popularly known as the Super Bowl. The sporting event with an estimated audience of 100 million featured a 30-second awareness advertisement on the issue. A report by MANYA SAINI.
SOME of the world’s most viral advertisements with the highest number of viewers are launched every year during the Super Bowl, that is, the American National Football League. The sporting event this year became the platform for potentially a million people to learn about the farmers’ protest in India. A 30-second video with the theme, ‘No Farmers, No Food, No Future’ featured on television and has since gone viral over social media.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” declares the clip’s opening sentence quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. The distressing visuals of farmers who have been staging a sit-in for over two months in Delhi have been overlaid with text alleging human riots violations, exploitation and apathy of the state.
The advertisement aired in California and was reportedly crowdfunded by the Sikh diaspora living in Fresno County. Indian-American banker Raj Sodhi-Layne raised money on the crowdfunding platform, ‘GoFundMe.’ The team received massive financial support from Indian communities in the United States exceeding their target amount. All excess funds were donated to the non-for-profit organisation ‘Seva For Everyone.’
As the advertisement draws global attention to what it calls, the “largest protest in history,” the hashtag ‘NoFoodNoFarmers’ has been trending across social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. It also highlights the number of lives lost so far, human rights violations and calls viewers to stand in support.
Fresno County, also known as ‘the breadbasket’ of the US, produces a quarter of the nation’s food and remains at the forefront of all agriculture charts in the country. It is home to a large and vibrant Sikh community with ties to Punjab. Following the telecast, the mayor of the county made a statement saying, “We want you to know that our brothers and sisters in India, we stand with you as you stand against the unfair government interference against all of you. We want you to know that you’re not alone.”
The issue of farmer protest has seen global solidarity since American singer and celebrity Rihanna took to social media micro-blogging platform Twitter to share a news report about the internet shutdown at the protest sites. Meena Harris, the niece of Kamala Harris, the Indian origin Vice President of the United States and Sikh poet Rupi Kaur has also added to the international criticism of the Indian government’s handling of the protests.
Significantly, the Indian government has not taken kindly to the statements and have said that celebrities speaking on the issue were “neither accurate nor responsible.” Further, the ‘toolkit’ shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg on the farmers’ protest has been deemed the work of fringe elements with vested interests by the government.
However, despite taking an objection to celebrity involvement internationally, it has itself been criticised recently for involving Bollywood actors like Akshay Kumar and cricketers to speak out in favour of the Centre’s approach to placate farmers. The similarly worded statements urge the farmers to seek an “amicable” solution to the prevailing crisis.
The crackdown on protests and an erosion of civil liberties have prompted a slew of criticism for the Modi government. The deadlock between the farmers and government rages on in the backdrop of arrests of protestors, FIRs against journalists and blocking of social media accounts on Twitter.
(Manya Saini is a student at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, and an intern with The Leaflet.)