- Adding fuel to the fire were tweets from German footballer Mesut Ozil and British American Journalist Mehdi Hasan about human rights violations in the country.
She is arguably the most famous Indian American celebrity in the American mainstream. Her’s is probably the most recognizable Indian face in the American media, having been a staple in celebrity and showbiz magazines. And so, when she wades into an explosive issue in Indian politics, she becomes a lightning rod on social media. That’s what happened to Indian American model, actress, chef and television host Padma Lakshmi last week when she posted a series of comments on social media condemning “widespread anti-Muslim” rhetoric in India.
“Sickening to see the violence against Muslims celebrated in India,” she tweeted. “The widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric preys on fear and poisons people.”
Hoping Hindus don’t succumb to “this fear-mongering” and “propaganda,” she asserted that there is no threat to Hinduism in India or anywhere else, and added that people of all faiths should be able to live peacefully in “this ancient, vast land.” In her tweets, Lakshmi tagged news articles from publications like The Guardian and Los Angeles Times as well.
Joining Lakshmi was German footballer Mesut Ozil who also took to Twitter to write about recent incidents that have been taking place in several parts of India. “Praying during the holy night of Lailat al-Qadr for the safety and well-being of our Muslim brothers and sisters in India,” he wrote. “Let’s spread awareness to this shameful situation! What is happening to the human rights in the so-called largest democracy in the world?”
A day earlier, on April 26, British American Journalist Mehdi Hasan tweeted his MSNBC editorial report saying, “Putin. Orban. Le Pen. We talk a lot in the West about the rise of far-right authoritarians and yet we never mention India’s Narendra Modi and his BJP. I did a deep-dive into India under Modi & new warnings of an anti-Muslim genocide.”
While Lakshmi’s post did not sit well with most Twitterati, U.S.-based advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights thanked Lakshmi “for speaking out against rising anti-Muslim hate in India, and for calling on your fellow Hindus to do the same.” A few pointed out the coincidence of the timing in the tweets by Lakshmi, Oil and Hasan.
A user named Taz also lauded Lakshmi for voicing her opinion. “The stand taken by Padma Lakshmi against the impending genocide of Muslims in India must be appreciated. This, while homegrown celebs either turn a blind eye to (Priyanka Chopra) or cheer on (Akshay Kumar) the atrocities being committed. Really good.”
Meanwhile, Indian American activist and clinical psychiatrist and psychotherapist Sheenie Ambardar accused Lakshmi of being either “purposely obtuse” or ignorant. “Hindus have been hunted in all parts of #India for decades. They are murdered every day in Pakistan & Bangladesh because of their religion.”
Some like Rais Pathan, chairperson of the Planning & Finance committee Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India, connected the tweets to the activation of the International Tool Kit. “Interestingly, people like Mehdi Hassan, Mesut Ozil, Padma Lakshmi have come out immediately & expressed concerns on so-called torture of Muslims in India, that too at the same time using same language. The International Toolkit is alive & activated.”
A few mentioned Lakshmi’s marriage to author Salman Rushdie. “You know that the anti-India tweets suddenly propping up against India are staged when the former wife of Salman Rushdie, the same man who was given death threats for writing an innocuous book by Islamist extremists, starts denying extremism in the first place,” wrote columnist Akshay Narang in News18. “But you will never see issues like attacks on minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh figure in the priorities of the so-called social activists,” he wrote. “You will not even read about blatant Hinduphobia in the US, because it runs counter to their fabricated narrative.” He added that Lakshmi “should keep her patronizing advice to herself and should be ashamed for jumping into the anti-India bandwagon alongside sympathizers of Islamic extremists.”
In the same vein, JCB Murlee, a professor at the Israel Institute for Biological Research, tweeted that Lakshmi “is suffering from delusions like most secular sedated Hindus.” He continued: “Hindus are not facing any ordinary threat. They’re facing a genocidal threat. This threat if not taken seriously might erase the existence of Hindus.”
Some users like Krishnasutra and Hindu Samata advised Lakshmi to educate herself with history and facts. “Living in imagination can be easy choice but dangerous,” Krishnasutra tweeted. Please educate yourself with history and facts of present. Travel a bit, talk to experts and you will find yourself saying ‘sorry for my ignorance.’ Good part is that you would be welcomed with open arms.”
“Hindu persecution IS real,” read a tweet from Hindu Samata. “We did the work for you and attached some headlines. Now it’s YOUR turn to correct your wrongs and speak up.”
In a follow-up tweet, the group said Lakshmi blocked them on Instagram after they “educated her on Hindu genocide. We shared many headlines about the ongoing persecution of Hindus in South Asia and commented on her original post. Despite seeing everything, @PadmaLakshmi
chooses ignorance and #hinduphobia
A user named Biju had a piece of advice for Lakshmi. “Why don’t you sit in New York and worry about what is happening in America,” he wrote. “You have no clue as to what is happening in this country! Come here, stay, find out what the truth is and then Tweet. Otherwise, it is better not to air opinions based on biased reporting.”