Pride Or Prejudice

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The state government is bragging the achievements of the Kashmir youth who rose to fame of their own; The Legitimate reports in detail how government ...

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The state government is bragging the achievements of the Kashmir youth who rose to fame of their own; The Legitimate reports in detail how government tries to exploit their success for their political interests.

Zaira Wasim/Photo:The Legitimate

Zaira Wasim/Photo: JP Singh

Asem Mohiuddin

When a 16 year old downtown girl, Zaira Waseem bagged a role in Amir Khan’s film Dangal nobody knew the young girl from the city would prove her mettle in Bollywood in such a way that through her performance in the film superstar like Amitab Bachan will praise her. And when Dangal – a biopic on a wrestler became mega hit, movie buffs started praising girl from Kashmir for her enormous talent and the way she played role of wrestler Geeta Phogat as a child. However, the meeting of young Zaira with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was not liked by many people who trolled her on social networking sites forcing her to make an apology.

The success of Dangal brought Zaira Waseem on limelight not only in India but in Kashmir where not a single cinema is open, here also majority of people started praising her though some people made critical remarks on the actress.

However, the controversy began when this young girl was invited by J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti to her office and later pictures of Zaira in traditional Kashmiri Pheran were released.

And thus began the controversy and many people started trolling her on social networking sites even some compared her with the young Kashmiri girl Insha who lost her both eyes when she was hit by a pellet in south Kashmir’s Shopian area inside her home. Even some facebook users blamed her for sharing picture with someone “who destroyed future of thousands of Kashmiri’s and some termed her working in films as an un-islamic act.  Some people made such derogatory comments against her which are not acceptable in the civilized society. However, there were many supportive voices not only in Kashmir but in India as well. Even the lead actor of Dangal and famed Bollywood star, Amir Khan came in her support. The opposition parties in Kashmir blamed J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti for using this young talented actress for her political mileage. After the criticism increased on the social sites, Zaira wrote a series of posts on her facebook that was even picked by the national media and gave it a different twist that further complicated things of this young artist.

Zaira rose to fame in the Bollywood not due to any patronage or the support from government but due to her hard work. Before appearing in Dangal, the young girl appeared in some advertisements and impressed by her performance, she has bagged another prestigious role in the Bollywood. The problem for Zaira in Kashmir began when her pictures with chief minister started making rounds on the social media.

 Defending herself Zaira wrote on her facebook wall soon after the controversy.

“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. I want to apologise to all those people who I’ve unintentionally hurt and I want them to know that I understand their sentiments behind it especially considering that what happened over past 6 months.’’

 She further wrote, “I hope people can also understand there are certain circumstances that emerge which one can’t control and I hope people still remember that I’m just a 16 year old girl and I hope you treat me accordingly,’’ she wrote, adding, “I’m sorry for what I did but it was not a deliberate decision and I really hope people can forgive me.’’

In another post, Zaira wrote that she had ‘’no idea why this has became such a big issue. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings and all of a sudden it has been turned into national news. Again and again I am telling people that I have not been forced into anything by anyone,’’ she wrote.

As the smear campaign was going against Zaira many people in the Valley put their weight behind the artist and started defending her and said that she need not to be apologetic. They even took on those trolls who had made derogatory remarks that are not acceptable in the civilized society.

In the meantime not only in Kashmir but across India, the young artist received lot of support. Even she received support from the son of Dukthrain e Millat chairperson Asiya Andrabi’s son Mohammad Bin Qasim who described her brave girl. “I don’t know Zaira personally but after reading her posts and recent tweets, I must say she is a girl of substance. I am not posting this status to applaud her brilliant performance in Dangal, but how she stood up against hypocrite and biased people around us, especially Indian media and Indian citizens, after meeting Mehbooba mufti,’’ Mohammad posted on fb. “She has set an example by speaking what she truly believes in. Kashmiris who abuse Zaira are illiterate uneducated and don’t represent us.’’

Even former J&K chief minister and opposition leader, Omar Abdullah came in her support. “A 16 year old shouldn’t be forced to apologise & that too allegedly for meeting @Mehbooba Mufti. What are we coming to)))” On its part the ruling PDP leaders said the criticism of Zaira for meeting chief minister berates achievement of every Kashmiri.

Zaira rose to fame in the Bollywood not due to any patronage or the support from government but due to her hard work. Before appearing in Dangal, the young girl appeared in some advertisements and impressed by her performance, she has bagged another prestigious role in the Bollywood. The problem for Zaira in Kashmir began when her pictures with chief minister started making rounds on the social media.

Of late, J&K government that faced unrest and protests in the Valley for five months in which more than 90 civilians were killed and thousands injured, the government’s official machinery started showcasing its achievements through the success of young and budding Kashmiri’s who earned name and fame in various fields. A young girl of North Kashmir’s Bandipore Tajamul Islam who won first position in kickboxing event held in Italy was showcased in such a way as if state had facilitated everything for her. Similar is the case with Zaira, chief minister Mehbooba sharing stage with her was portrayed in such a way as if she was representing ideology of Mehbooba Mufti and finally she became victim of the trolls who crossed all the limits and needs to be condemned at every level. Meeting with talented artists and sportspersons especially who are young is always appreciable; however, those who run the official administration should never try to use success of these people for its own benefit especially when the situation in the Valley is not conducive. The only silver lining is that the tremendous support that Zaira received showcased that only a section of people are against her and majority of people are supporting her as she has all the potential to became a famed artist in future. The unfortunate part of this controversy is that government has not learned its lessons properly and are still trying to use young people who have achieved name and fame as cannon fodder in its war with those opposing them. Even time has come when media also needs to play a responsible role as a single twist in a story could prove dangerous. If government is really sincere about the future generation, instead of bragging the achievements of the sports persons or artists who have achieved the goals out of their own handwork or received the push from non political agencies like Tajamul Islam who was completely sponsored and trained by the army under Sadbhavana, they should encourage them by providing infrastructure and facilities even monetary benefits to young boys and girls with turning it into a public stunt. Ironically, the youth empowering departments run by the government have tuned the hub of corruption and are almost defunct. There is no sign of activities in those departments notwithstanding the fact that huge money is being pumped into these departments for vocational, recreational, art and sports related activities for youth. Jut few years ago a massive scam surfaced in the Jammu and Kashmir cricket association in which the state’s top political and administrative figures including National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah  was allegedly involved. The money siphoned by them was aimed to encourage the local youth in sports arena. The case of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) is not different. The institute which receives massive funds to promote the local youth and sponsored them to set up their own business enterprises practically failed to serve the purpose and the same government which is proudly trying to hijack the successes of youth for political interests is insincere towards it.  

Zaira Wasim/Photo:JP Singh

Zaira Wasim/Photo:JP Singh

Even the present Chief minister who hails Tajamul Islam, Kick boxing junior champion, Wasim Zaira and other youths is yet to prove her capabilities of throwing open the vistas of opportunities for them. Only then she can suggest or advise the youth if she ever succeeds to invoke transparency and accountability in the departments aimed to empower youth. However, so far the state government has no contribution in the achievements of these youth who proved their mettle in different areas of life. The Chief Minister must admit that.

Meanwhile, the J&K Congress president, Ghulam Ahmad Mir also blamed Mehbooba Mufti for using talented youngsters to gain political mileage for herself. “Even at times it can prove dangerous to young people and government especially chief minister should understand this fact.’’

And this is not the first time when any Kashmiri has got a role in Bollywood there were many cases previously, however, the politics has made it controversial.

“In every society there are trolls, even big Indian stars are being trolled on the social sites. Zaira became controversial only after J&K chief minister Mehbooba shared her pictures and tried to give a different message,’’ said Ashiq Ahmad, a university student. “In a charged atmosphere everything in the Valley becomes controversial due to government and other stakeholders. So caution needs to be taken from all the sides.’’ In the meantime, people are also surprised how Kashmiri students have started winning medals on the national and international events in less publicised games and many see it as a controversy.

“It is good if our youngsters are winning medals and making achievements, but government should remain extra vigilant, instead, the media wing of PDP and government is trying to give it a different colour that is not liked by many people in the Valley, especially after the long unrest that had left many families devastated.’’

From the print edition of Jan 24-31, 2017.

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