Even as thousands of Indians are taking to streets everyday to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, Indian-origin actor and author Padma Lakshmi has drawn criticism for choosing to speak about trivial issues lreferring to "chai" (tea) as "chai tea". However, her tweet which was an attack on cultural appropriation of food backfired when several netizens attacked her for remaining silent while the country was engulfed in protests and rallies against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.
For the past few weeks, students and citizens have taken to the streets to raise their voice against CAA, which was passed on 11 December, 2019; labeling the Act as highly discriminatory on grounds of religion and in direct conflict with the secular nature of the country as specified in the Constitution.
Here's some context as to what the controversy is all about. The new law effectively says that illegal immigrants — who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan on or before December 31, 2014 and belong to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Christian, or Parsi communities — will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will now be eligible for citizenship. However, Muslims, irrespective of nationality or the refugees from neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, have been excluded from the list. This has caused Indians to believe that the Act discriminates against Muslim communities.
Yet, while the country continues to writhe in pain, most celebrities have chosen to remain silent and Padma Lakshmi seems to be one of them. For the unaware, Lakshmi is an American citizen; however, she hails from India. On December 29, she tweeted saying that now that the new year is around the corner, people should stop addressing chai as "chai tea" which is just redundant and makes no sense at all.
┏━━┓┏━━┓┏━━┓┏━━┓┗━┓┃┃┏┓┃┗━┓┃┃┏┓┃┏━┛┃┃┃┃┃┏━┛┃┃┃┃┃ STOP SAYING “CHAI TEA“ ┃┏━┛┃┃┃┃┃┏━┛┃┃┃┃┃┗━┓┃┗┛┃┃┗━┓┃┗┛┃┗━━┛┗━━┛┗━━┛┗━━— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) December 29, 2019
However, her tweet didn't sit well with her followers who believe that she should have been using the platform and her influence to speak about more poignant issues like CAA instead of dwelling over trivialities.
diaspora indians with huge platforms are useless— shaziya (@garamchaiii) December 29, 2019
Chai tea is the least of India’s problems right now. Survival is. https://t.co/AWe8yQrB5V— Malarăsculat (@caselchris1) December 29, 2019
Hi! There is a government sanctioned clampdown on Muslims currently underway in India, an anti-Muslim, anti-Dalit, and anti-poor act has recently been passed, and all dissent is being crushed. Tweet about that. Nearly no one gives a shit about chai tea here. https://t.co/kfra4SKqXg— Meher (@meherness) December 29, 2019
hmm did not realize people saying chai tea was such an issue for the south asian delegation— vampire workday (@imbobswaget) December 29, 2019
Can we cancel everyone who still gives a shit about chai tea and naam bread and turmeric latte?Stop with the cultural appropriation hot takes, your prom dress can wait. The country’s going through turmoil and you’re still using your platform for this. Shame. https://t.co/bQtN3k4Ejh— #resistCAA+NRC+NPR (@puerilexile) December 29, 2019