Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in New York | File photo | Demetrius Freeman/Bloomberg
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in New York | File photo | Demetrius Freeman | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The toolkit that was tweeted and then deleted by environmental activist Greta Thunberg, 18, to garner support for the ongoing farmers’ protest was allegedly “fed to her” as part of a “larger conspiracy to create disharmony”, sources in the security establishment told ThePrint.

According to sources, Canada-based organisation Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) played a “vital role” in “starting a global campaign”, with backing from “political leaders and activists based out of Canada”.

The people that are on the radar of Indian agencies include Mo Dhaliwal, founder of the PJF and director of a PR firm named Skyrocket, Marina Patterson, who worked as a relationship manager with PR firms, Anita Lal, director of the Canada-based World Sikh Organisation, and co-founder of PJF, and Canadian parliamentarian Jagmeet Singh.

According to sources, it was Skyrocket that allegedly paid $2.5 million to popstar Rihanna to tweet in support of the farmers’ protest in India. Dhaliwal, the sources said, is a Canada-based Sikh who is a “self-proclaimed Sikh separatist” and is also close to Jagmeet Singh. 

The Canadian MP, who lauded Rihanna’s tweet, has often courted headlines for allegedly supporting the Sikh separatist movement — his participation in a 2015 rally in the US where a poster of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was reportedly put up remains especially controversial. However, he denies these allegations.

The PJF, which describes itself as an organisation that “challenges structures of oppression and discrimination through intersectional grassroots advocacy”, claims on its website that “currently we are most actively involved in the #FarmersProtest”.

A screenshot of the Poetic Justice Foundation website
A screenshot of the Poetic Justice Foundation website

On Twitter, the organisation has been actively tweeting about the farmers protest with the hashtag “AskIndiaWhy”, which has also spawned a website by the same name (the hashtag finds reference in the revised toolkit tweeted by Thunberg Wednesday). 

“India’s farmers and citizens need the global community to pay attention,” the website states. “International focus on these protests may be the only thing preventing state-sponsored violence and another string of massacres in the country,” it adds. 

The PJF defended the hoisting of the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort, which remains among the most controversial aspects of the Republic Day protest that erupted in violence. 

In October last year, the sources said, Dhaliwal was a panelist for a webinar named ‘Khalistan, a conversation on trauma, racism and sovereignty’. Organised by the Poetic Justice Foundation, the programme involved a discussion on the Sikh separatist movement, sources said.

Marina, who was allegedly “live-editing” the toolkit that was finally posted, played a key role in drafting it, sources added.

ThePrint has reached Dhaliwal and Jagmeet Singh through email, and Lal through a Twitter message, for comments on this report.

The sources also referred to Thunberg association with Pune-based Extinction Rebellion India and Delhi-based Fridays for Future, for “promoting the campaign”. 

The toolkit tweeted by Thunberg sought to lay down different ways people can participate in the farmers protest. The first one included references to “tweet storms” on or before Republic Day, and protests around Indian missions. She deleted this version before uploading another one, saying the earlier document was “outdated”.

“Point 4 of the objectives that were listed in the toolkit (the one Thunberg deleted) said they want to ‘disrupt yoga & chai image of India in general’. This shows the intention behind this campaign,” one of the sources said.

Delhi Police Thursday filed a case in connection with the toolkit, booking unknown persons under sections for sedition, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between religions, and provocation with intent to cause a riot.

India had Wednesday tweeted a statement saying “it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these (farmers’) protests, and derail them”. 

“Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India,” it added. “Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.” 


Also Read: ‘India against propaganda’, say Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar over Rihanna, Greta Thunberg tweets


‘Why the sudden action?’

The farmer protest, which has been going on since Parliament passed three new farm laws in September, erupted in violence on Republic Day as many protesters violated the route map set out by Delhi Police — in consultation with farmer leaders — for their planned tractor rally and reached the heart of the capital.

The episode involved a breach of the Red Fort as some protesters hoisted the Nishan Sahib on its lawns.

In the wake of the violence, the government imposed restrictions on internet services in some pockets and installed patches of nails around the sites of protest on Delhi’s outskirts.

The current round of controversy began as Rihanna, who has over 100 million followers on Twitter, tweeted a CNN report about the restrictions and asked why “are we not talking about it”.

A tweet by Thunberg came soon afterwards, and many prominent international celebrities followed suit.

According to sources, all these icons have some “linkages” to the PJF and the government is probing as to why these celebrities have “suddenly sprung into action” on an issue that “does not impact them directly”.

India has also alerted all its missions based in the US and Europe to identify the organisations that are working to create a “negative campaign against India”, the sources said.

The PJF has been running a “form” on its website since a couple of months before the Republic Day, calling for people to join the “Global Day of Action”, sources said.

On Thursday, the PJF urged people to post matters related to the farmers’ protest by “tagging a celebrity, politician, or influencer…” “We’re stronger together. Let’s make some noise,” it said.

The Delhi Police said the toolkit had an “action plan” that said “digital strikes through hashtags on and before 26 January will be carried out”. It also talked about “tweet storms from 23 January onwards and physical action on 26 January”.

“This particular action plan was uploaded on the public domain. The action which has been delineated in this toolkit, is a copy cat execution of 26 January, which is a matter of concern,” Delhi Special Commissioner of Police for Crime Praveer Ranjan said.

“The intention of the creator of the toolkit is to create disaffection against government of India. It also aims at and mentions waging socio-economic war against government of India,” he said.

Experts, however, say not much should be read into the toolkit.

“Certainly, there may be organisations supporting Thunberg, one can’t rule that out, but then again there are plenty of perfectly innocuous groups — farmers’ rights outfits, climate organisations that would want to bring attention to what’s happening in India,” Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, told ThePrint.

“As for the toolkit, from what I’ve seen of it, it just seems to be a description of how to organise global peaceful protests … The current protests tap into sentiment about social justice and corporatisation that resonate strongly with liberal and progressive celebrity activists,” he added.

Thunberg tweeted Thursday evening that “no amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change” her support for the farmers’ protest.


Also Read: After Rihanna, Greta Thunberg supports farm protests, Kangana calls farmers ‘terrorists’


India issues Mutual Legal Assistance Request to US 

The US State Department has also weighed in on the internet restrictions, saying “unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy”.

In general, it added, the US “welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment”. 

It also said the US encourages “that any differences be resolved through dialogue”.

The statement was reiterated by the US Embassy in India.

Asked about the comments at the Ministry of External Affairs’ weekly briefing Thursday, spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said it is “important to see such comments in the context in which they were made and in their entirety”. 

“As you can see, the US State Department has acknowledged steps being taken by India towards agricultural reforms. Any protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the ongoing efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” he added.

As far as the US is concerned, sources said, the government has not ruled out links between the international campaign on the farmers’ agitation and efforts made by organisations like ‘Sikhs for Justice’ — a US-based body comprising members who support Sikh separatism.

Amid suspicions that they played an active role during the Republic Day incident, the matter has been taken up with the US Department of Justice by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“India has issued a Mutual Legal Assistance Request to the USA for investigation in the matter of Sikhs for Justice/Referendum 2020. As per procedure, the request has been sent directly by the concerned authorities to the US Department of Justice (DoJ). You may wish to contact the Ministry of Home Affairs for further information,” Srivastava said Thursday.

ThePrint had reported earlier how Pakistan’s external intelligence wing, ISI, might be fanning disturbances in India under the garb of the farmers’ agitation. 

BJP’s outreach programme

In light of the Twitter storm kicked up by the celebrities’ tweets, the BJP — which leads the central government — has intensified its outreach programme to dispel the “false notions” being spread about the government. The BJP sees the tweets as part a “well-orchestrated” campaign to tarnish the image of the Modi government. 

The party has drawn parallels to last year’s Shaheen Bagh protest that had also garnered international attention. The sit-in protest that took place in the national capital was in response to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which seeks to set a religious yardstick to grant citizenship to refugees. 

“See, one thing is very clear that these are very concerted efforts, it is not that someone is impromptu making some comments. Especially, someone like Rihanna would never know, I don’t think she can even point out on the global map where India is,” said Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge of the BJP’s foreign affairs department.

“The toolkit essentially shows that it is a long-term plan. It is not something that has happened Monday. So, it is a very well-planned strategy to demonise India and the Indian government,” he added. 

“And also basically to undermine the good work done by the Indian government especially on the vaccine front etc.”

Asked who they suspect to behind this “strategy”, he said, “To be honest, we don’t know. But I saw some reports that this website is registered in Canada. But there are forces like the FFF India (Fridays For Future India)… That organisation has been mentioned in the toolkit. It is an India-based organisation but how it was involved in the previous campaign also”.

“We are doing what we can do the best, communicating with the people, the entire diaspora and also the entire world about the real situation and also making them aware of all these conspiracies through social media,” he said. “You must have seen yesterday’s hashtag – #Indiaagainstpropaganda. We have good outreach over ground so we will use that outreach and connections on ground to give the right picture.” 


Also Read: Sikh separatism fighting existential battle but mishandling farmer protest can add fuel


 

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32 Comments Share Your Views

32 COMMENTS

  1. Look at a bigger picture for the answer to international meddling in India’s affairs. Antifa and BLM rage against ” Systemic Racism’ in America and then appear in Britain and Europe! The constant drum beat of systemic oppression across The World is not coincidental! Calling for ” Global Days of Action” to shed light on internal issues in multiple countries from people who have ” No Standing” on those issues within the countries is blatantly obvious to this reader as a concerted ” Cultural Marxist ” assault on established governments with a view to dis-stabilize and foment anarchy!
    Groups tell us in their self descriptions that they are driven by “Critical Race Theory ” which is derived form Cultural Marxist Critical Theory which emanated from ” The Frankfurt School ” and the writings of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist jailed by Mussolini! Their ultimate goal is to undo 2000 years of influence that Judaeo-Christianity has had on The World and to supplant it with whatever ideology that they finally decide upon in their long march to destroy all that their “Master’s” desire!
    ” All these ” Useful Idiots ” will stir up the brush fires of discontent amongst ” The Proletariat” while ” The Corps D’elite” reap the financial rewards and once again drive ” The Masses” to their own destruction!

  2. Govt already lost this game. This became a pure politics. Nowdays nobody care about the laws and there is no discussion about how the laws are pro farmer or anti farmer. First of all without debates it is impossible to make amendments. Rakesh Takait is playing politics alongwith opposition leaders as he may have some political ambitions. Tikait itself told that agriculture is a state subject. Why centrl govt needs to pass a law on this matter. So the politics is being played mainly by Congress and it’s allies. Also
    the law only affects the food surplus producing states. BJP needs to strategically plan how can it bring a pro-farmer color to the bill which is now perceived as otherwise. They have to start campaigns and discussions with other state famer organisations to support the and bring the amendments. So it is about the volume. If the BJP can make the country believe that there are far more farmers who actually need these reforms to make a better income, then the public opinion will be their side. But that is the challenge they have.

  3. You have 1/2 the media claiming this is a real story. But you don’t name the accuser, you provide zero evidence and the accused 100% denies the claim.

    “sources?” what sources?

    Is this really journalism at this point? Can I just say “sources say” and then make up anything I want to get clicks? Do better.

  4. The print can you please clarify from which sources you post this 18 crore thing. I know that the toolkit was wrong but need clarification on 18 crore. Not a left wing, pappu fan etc just want to know the truth as most are sharing your post with guaranteed that she has taken 18 crore but you just said by the sources. Is it real or truth..🙏🙏

  5. In this whole melee what everybody, including the media, seem to be missing is the reason for the “protest”… to just uphold a right to protest – missing the woods for the trees. Somebody had famously said “I disagree with what you say but I will forever fight to uphold your right to say it” or words to that effect. Exercising a right to protest does not automatically make the reason of the protest automatically right too.

    Tail piece: A democratic Nation is run by elected Governments and not celebrities and activists. And democracy is not always about protests.

  6. If the security forces are so clever as to find out that Rihanna was paid 2.5 m dollars within a matter of days i wonder what prevents them from finding where Nirvana Modi, Vijay Malaya and the Cayman Islands gang stashed away the loot from India. Besides no security agency worth its name immediately goes to the press with what it found out. At her they will keep it a close to themselves to build a credible case. This is the usual inept propaganda by an incompetent government when faced with a PR disaster reacts foolishly. A mature response is required.

  7. Look into Mo Dhaliwal carefully. He seems to be related to Sukh Dhaliwal who wanted the Canadian Parliament to declare the 1984 riots as genocide. This guy for some reason also wrote a letter in support of a convicted drug trafficker dealing with Pakistan, Ranjit Singh Cheema. Shady links all around this guy.

    Also, Canada’s NDP is listed as one of Mo’s clients through Skyrocket.

    1> https://web.archive.org/web/20080915092419/http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=8dff3883-35f1-4236-be12-41f4b46f0123

    2> https://www.hindustantimes.com/world/manmohan-singh-asks-sikhs-in-canada-to-put-1984-riots-behind/story-Q9uNcf6j6eQDX5LA4bwkeP.html

    They are using these protests to disrupt India’s image and it will be easier for them to do so if the govt. acts in a strong armed manner. They should not be enforcing laws without providing a written guarantee to the farmers that msp will be retained anyways.

  8. Repealing the law cleared by parliament under pressure of not even 1% farmers is out of question. It will set a bad precedent and groups with vested interest will always misuse it. Reforms are always uneasy, by nature people resist changes because of insecurities, in our case external forces as well as opposition have joined hands to exploit the insecurity of farmers and middlemen.
    Unless this new system goes through trial, noone can claim that this won’t work in the favour of farmers.

  9. Common sense journalism lack in India. I thought Print is responsible enough to fact-check and not make sensational allegations on anyone. 200+ Farmers KILLED by Modi Government for not resolving their issue. NOBODY raise a brow And a mere tweet to just talk about this basic human rights violation is a crime. Wah re democracy.

  10. So you are telling me Rihanna accepted a $2.5Million US Dollar cheque and is ok losing out on potential of tens of millions in sales, endorsements etc in India??? I question your logic, your sources. Drivel.

    • She has no financial losses in tweeting about India, Left-lunatic-liberals are a preferred group for the endorsements these days anyway

    • India as a market is non-existent for western music. It’s not like Rihanna was raking in millions of dollars in brand endorsement before the tweet. $2.5 mil is a large sum for one tweet even for someone of her stature.

    • So you are telling me that Rihanna earns tens of millions from sales and endorsements in INDIA?
      In INDIA people don’t buy albums and singles, artists depend on movies, sponsored advertisements, and stage performances or concerts to earn their living.
      And I don’t remember Rihanna organising a concert in INDIA every year to earn the tens of millions you mentioned, nor is she approached by producers for her songs for use in movies or advertisements.

  11. Experts, however, say not much should be read into the toolkit.

    “Certainly, there may be organisations supporting Thunberg, one can’t rule that out, but then again there are plenty of perfectly innocuous groups — farmers’ rights outfits, climate organisations that would want to bring attention to what’s happening in India,” Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, told ThePrint.

    Question: Is this man the only ‘expert?’ I ask because a lot of people seem to be experts In India and India’s supposed strategic failures… This is the problem with media today; putting in their own adjectives trying to lend credibility to people who give opinions. It is not just naive but extremely dumb to think of this toolkit as harmless. These kind of efforts have to be stomped out totally.

    • Yes, toolkits are not harmless. Take the pro – CAA toolkit that was leaked for example. Wonder if you raised your concerns then.

  12. Indians should be scared. Greta etc has huge followers who will take anything crap she doles out even if it is beyond her understanding. The fact that there is a huge lobby that is incessantly working to destabilize India is a reality that is revealing slowly. They do not care about right wing of liberal Indians. They are just using you as pawns. The campaign is systematic – discredit chai and yoga, and the Indian image. This will hurt both Liberals and right. Modi and other politicians will come and go. Do not let your hate for someone take over to create a larger long term problem. Protest internally, don’t take support from outside, give a strong message that we can fight on our own.

  13. This whole thing has become ridiculous, and becoming more so with each passing day. Why in the first place did something as neutral a topic as improving our agricultural system become a political problem. It should have been a matter of discussion between farmers, economists and government officials before coming up with a solution that could then have been enacted into appropriate laws. Now that this did become a protest, it should have been clear that at some point it would degenerate into violence … one cannot have hundreds of thousands of farmers sitting in the open for months before somebody loses patience and throws a stone or worse. And one doesn’t need to a genius to figure out that all this would soon feed all manner of busybodies and loonies from the world over, especially in this day and age of social media. Nobody among the farmers or the protesting public knows much of Greta Thunberg and Rihanna, one doesn’t have to give them more credence by ‘filing FIRs’ which we know is an impotent act anyway, since Delhi Police are not going to go arrest them. These are ham handed efforts to ‘doctor the narrative’ and convince the already gullible public that this is somehow an international conspiracy against India. Worse, it is bound to be exploited by Pakistan – we have ample evidence that more arms and drugs are being pushed across the border, and that some expatriate Sikhs – usually no more than armchair Khalistan sympathizers of little consequence – are being paid or instigated to start making noises about Indian oppression etc. Their audience is the political establishment in the West, which especially in this day and age of social media, reacts knee jerk to any tidbit on social media. In India, it would be a tragedy if more ham handed, egoistic posturing will light the spark that alienates the youth of Punjab, any of whom are unemployed and aimless. It calls for not seeing ghosts in every corner, ignoring Thunberg, Rihanna and their ilk and getting down to mature, sincere, empathetic dialog away from the glare of the media with all concerned to understand their real problems and work to solve them. It is about farmers being made to realize, and be reassured via legal and whatever other ways needed, that reforms will lead to their better prosperity. If at the end of the day they do not want these reforms then it is better to drop the reforms for now, in the states where there is opposition. Let us not create another problem of national security in addition to the economic one.

  14. Even if their is a conspiracy theory as you people suspect, why let this problem errupt at the first. The govt. reconcile and repeal the laws. Sit down with them and make necessary ammends and pass it again using its brute majority. If there’s void, definitely it’s an advantage to the enemies of the state, rather we should stand United and end this mess asap before it takes a bigger shape. The govt. should bend and repeal the laws.

    • The Modi Govt enjoys an electoral majority. There is nothing BRUTE about it. Govt should absolutely NOT bend to a raggedy bunch of rabble-rousers and international separatist movements and paid celebs. The Parliament, President and Supreme Court of India have ratified the Bills and that is the end of that discussion. If some Canadians and Barbadians don’t care about India’s Constitution, no one cares. Govt was accommodative about a good many amendments though unwarranted (like removal of fine on stubble-burning) but this sword-wielding flag-burning Red Fort-trashing violence, followed by p*rn stars and Kamala’s bhatiji blathering against the sovereign decisions of the democratically elected Govt, has put paid to public goodwill and this protest is over. A bunch of folks are sitting around but the political brownie points are now only accruing to the Govt. Greta did you lot no favours at all with her defiance about the seditionist toolkit. Indians are not Americans. We know protests and what to do with them.

    • Why repeal the laws when govt is ready for amendments to certain points pointed out by farmer organisations ? Laws are made in the Parliament. that is a power vested by the Indian Constitution. It also gives power to general public to approach courts and do a judicial review. but laws are not repealed as per groups blocking roads ! If that was the case, why have a Parliament at all? Also please note that India does not have a system of referendums. What you are suggesting is very very similar to that where a bunch of people who come and block roads, invest huge sums of money to start a campaign are the ones to decide what laws are enacted!

    • A protest doesn’t mean the protestors are right. This is wrong precedence for a democratic country. Tomorrow it could be used for anything, anything. Think about it.

      • Protest is their right… Court said these bills are not right for the farmerd and these are not applied to any pqrt of India… Then why modi govt did not take these bills back? And why govt tqke brutal steps against farmers, who are peacefully sitted for their rights…. There is law in indian constitution to do protest for rights. Why modi govt is doing their sick tricks on them?

    • Why repeal the laws? Farmers are already in death trap, especially Farmers of Pumjab and Haryana. Repealing will not help, but the implementation lf the laws will surely help pan India agriculture.
      What about the large amount of farmers who doesn’t have mandi and they are in dire need of these laws. Repealing laws just because some people Protest is ridiculous. In this way, the India can never grow.

    • The govt did have 11 rounds of talks and asked the leaders what is the problem with the law and suggestions for amendments. The farmer “leaders” were not open to any dialogue and wanted total repeal of laws. The govt went forward and offered to suspend for 18months. Still they didn’t budge. Also the same Rakesh tikait hailed and supported the laws when they were passed. What changed now ? The farmers on ground are genuine and innocent but the leadership of s motivated by ignoble intentions. So far none of the protesters have given one credible reason to oppose the law.

      • Brother you said wrong he never accepted farm laws. I am not in support of farmers. But you know there are some positives and negstives of farm laws. The govt first said that farm laws are good but after rounds of meeting they even understand there were some loop holes in them. I think the best way is to make changes in farm laws rather than criticising to opposition, khalistani.

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