Then he received an email from Twitter confirming that he had been blocked in his home country for allegedly breaking Indian Information Technology Law. He said the email offered no details about the reasons for his censorship. “I was really shocked. I had no idea – it’s a shameful thing to do… everyone has a right to say what they think, ”said Bains, who grew up in Surrey, British Columbia, after arriving at the Canada as a child.
Bains says he believes the social media shutdown is a response to his outspokenness in favor of Indian farmers who have spent the past six months protesting controversial new farm laws in India.
He says he feels connected to them and has spent 25 days living among protest farmers, some 70 or 80, in November and December to “feel their pain.”
He also commemorated the raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, where thousands of Sikhs are estimated to have died after Indian government troops stormed it in June 1984.
A “worrying” censorship
Balpreet Singh, legal adviser to Canada’s Sikh World Organization, said Bains was only the latest star to face censorship after criticizing the Indian government. Australian Sikh rapper L-Fresh the Lion has also faced recent restrictions on Twitter.
Singh described Bains’ tweets as “annoying” to the Indian government “but not criminal or encouraging violence – so it is certainly troubling that India has taken this step.”
They are not the only celebrities provoking the Indian government.
Pop superstar Rihanna and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg angered the Indian government in February after they both tweeted their support for farmers protesting new reforms in India last fall.
A single tweet from Rihanna on February 2 simply asked “Why aren’t we talking about this? In reference to the Indian government’s decision to shut down public internet access after protests turned violent during Republic Day celebrations in January.
Rihanna’s tweet, which included the hashtag #FarmersProtest, was sent to her 101 million followers, drawing both the world’s attention and the wrath of the Indian government.
Farmers are unhappy India abolished the system whereby they auctioned their crops to a state production committee that guaranteed a minimum price.
India argues that the new reforms give farmers more freedom to sell directly to buyers, to other states or to large grocery chains. But many farmers fear the new laws will allow big companies to lower prices.
India’s foreign ministry said increased competition in the market could actually increase farmers’ incomes.
“These reforms give wider market access and offer more flexibility to farmers,” the ministry said in a statement after Rhianna’s tweet.
“Before we rush to comment on such matters, we urge that the facts be checked… The temptation of hashtags and sensationalist comments on social media, especially when used by celebrities and others, doesn’t is neither accurate nor responsible. “
Singh says the backlash against social media comments is so inflammatory in India that it has frightened some social media staff.
“It’s such a shame that Facebook and Twitter employees in India have expressed fear for their lives of being threatened because of what is happening on their platforms. ”
CBC News asked Indian Consul General in Vancouver, Indian External Affairs Minister Arindam Bagshi, Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah and Twitter for comment.