The renowned bhangra-rap musician Jaswinder Singh Bains, better known as Jazzy B, says he was taken aback when messages began pouring in over the weekend from fans in India who couldn’t access his Twitter account.Then he got an email from Twitter saying he’d been banned from his home country for allegedly violating the Indian Information Technology Act. He alleged that the email failed to clarify why he had been banned.
“I was surprised. I had no idea – it’s heinous conduct… Everyone has the right to self-expression.” Bains, who emigrated to Canada as a child and grew up in Surrey, British Columbia, expressed his thoughts. Bains believes the social media shutdown is in retaliation for his public support for Indian farmers who have been protesting contentious new agricultural policies for the past six months.
He spent 25 days with protesting farmers, some of whom were in their 70s and 80s, in November and December to “feel their anguish.”He also remembers the June 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, when Indian government troops stormed the temple and slaughtered hundreds of Sikhs.
According to Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Bains is just the latest star to experience restrictions after criticizing the Indian government. L-Fresh the Lion, an Australian Sikh rapper, has recently been restricted on Twitter.
They aren’t the only celebrities who have enraged India’s government. In February, the Indian government was outraged after pop artist Rihanna and teen climate campaigner Greta Thunberg both tweeted support for farmers opposing new regulations imposed in India last fall.
In response to the Indian government’s decision to shut off public internet access following violent protests during Republic Day festivities in January, Rihanna sent out a single tweet on February 2 asking, “Why aren’t we talking about this?”Rihanna’s tweet, which included the hashtag #FarmersProtest, went viral, garnering international attention as well as the ire of the Indian government.
Farmers are outraged that India has abandoned the system under which they auctioned their products to a state production committee, which guaranteed a minimum price. According to India, the new rules provide farmers more freedom to sell directly to buyers, other states, or large grocery chains. However, many farmers are concerned that the new legislation may allow major firms to cut their pricing.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, increased market competition may help farmers earn more money. According to Singh, the backlash against social media commentary in India is so strong that it has intimidated some social media personnel.