‘Nobody has the right to attach their political aspirations to an individual, but the state cannot appropriate others’ success to hide their shortcomings.’

Valley speaks out Zairas trolls are not the face of our society say KashmirisTwitter
news Controversy Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 08:14

Having thrilled the audience in cinemas halls only weeks ago with her brilliant portrayal of young Geeta Phogat in Aamir Khan starrer Dangal, Zaira Wasim, 16, from the Kashmir valley landed in an unfounded controversy on Monday, after ‘apologising for her actions’ in an online post which she quickly deleted.

In her post, the 16-year-old actor wrote, "This is an open confession/apology. I know that many people have been offended and displeased by my recent actions or by the people I have recently met." As is the case with most things these days, before Zaira deleted her post it had already gone viral on the internet.

Her post further read, "all those people who I have unintentionally hurt and I want them to know that I understand their sentiments behind it especially considering that what had happened over the past six months," apparently referring to the unrest in the valley which left over 90 people dead and thousands injured.

Zaira had posted the apology after being bullied online for meeting the Chief Minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti last week. Within hours it had taken over TV screens and social media by storm with TV anchors and experts concluding that she was pressurised by “fundamentalists in the valley”. Hour later, Zaira wrote another post insisting that she ‘was not forced’ to write the earlier post and only wanted to make sure that she has not hurt anyone. But by midnight #IStandWithZaira was trending on Twitter and she was at the centre of yet another good Kashmiri and bad Kashmiri debate.

While the young actor has desisted from making any comment to the media or on social media about the reasons behind her “open letter” since deleting her post, many in the valley feel the issue has been hijacked by the media, a emotion that was on display very often during last year’s strife in the valley.

“It’s despicable that she has been bullied and trolled online for meeting the CM. We have to understand that nobody has the right to attach their political aspiration to any individual, in this case a 16-year-old kid. And at the same time the state doesn’t have any right to appropriate the success of these individuals to hide their own shortcomings,” said Gowhar Geelani, a valley based columnist.

“Trolls are everywhere on the internet, and Kashmir is no different. It was just a small section of people with misogynistic undertones that bullied her, and we need to vociferously condemn such bullying but that small number doesn’t represent Kashmir,” he added.

As Zaira’s post and later her decision to remove it divided social media, former Chief Minister of the state Omar Abdullah also took a swipe at Mehbooba Mufti for contouring the success of individuals for political benefit.

“I've a problem with @MehboobaMufti trying to usrp other peoples success to cover up her own failures but why punish/troll people she meets?” Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir wrote on Twitter.

As the controversy snowballed into prime time debates, Zaira’s co-star and Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan also pleaded with everyone “to leave her alone and respect the fact that she is just 16-year-old girl trying to figure out life.”

Faakirah Irfan, a social activist, says that while targeting Zaira for meeting Mehbooba Mufti is completely uncalled for, a section of the media twisted the entire narrative to paint “Kashmir as an intolerant society”.

“As fellow Kashmiri women, we could relate to her ordeal and many of us stood up for her. Her apology caused a domino kind of an effect where my Facebook feed was filled with men and women writing in support of Zaira. That was something very beautiful to me that we as a society were reaching that point where we could differentiate between right and wrong.”

“However, the Indian state took this again as an opportunity to pin it against us. To show the world that Zaira’s apology was coming out of compulsion from a society that was very extremist, the entire heartfelt confession of Zaira was politicised like any other thing is in Kashmir. However, even though the world was throwing stones at us over being a conservative society we stood by Zaira and will stand by her,” she added.

22-year-old musician and composer Ali Saiffudin, who has featured in various viral videos has similar thoughts to share. He points to the fact that when Zaira made her debut on the big screen she received lots of love and admiration from the people in Kashmir.

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