Zaira Wasim, we don’t deserve you: A Kashmiri

Zaira Wasim

On behalf of the modern, liberated and new generation of the Valley, I want her to know how proud we are of her.

As people celebrated the success of the recently released Aamir Khan film Dangal, Kashmir had a reason to be proud as the movie’s young Geeta Phogat was played by the super-talented Zaira Wasim, a 16-year-old girl from the state.

Being a Kashmiri girl myself, I am extremely proud of her as she has surely gone out of the way to be part of this movie. The celebration mode was still on when suddenly an apology from her sent the entire nation into a tizzy.

What was the little girl apologising for? She said in an interview that she wasn’t proud of what she was doing, when in reality she has already become a youth icon for all of us.

Call it misogyny, hypocrisy or having double standards, this incident has surely put all of us in a state of shame and humiliation. People around the world have started looking at Kashmir as an intolerant society. How can we call for independence when basic social rights are not guaranteed?

Even the thought of it is giving me jitters. Just when we were hailing Zaira for playing Geeta so effortlessly, this apology letter from her seems disturbing and worrisome at the same time.

Being born in the 1990s, a time when all the state’s theatres were shut down or occupied, I never got a chance to watch a movie in the cinema hall. Hearing tales from my parents about how they would bunk classes to watch a movie, I always wondered how Kashmir looked like back then.

Belonging to the same society, I can say that it wouldn’t have been easy for Zaira to take this decision. It disgusts me when I see her being abused on social media for working in a movie. Because of a few miscreants, the Kashmiri community has been put to shame.

The ironical part is that a state which shares such an old bond with Bollywood is so in disagreement with a girl working in an A-list blockbuster movie. It was no surprise to me that the girl received flak on social media for working in the movie as there is a certain section of society, which I wouldn’t want to affiliate with Kashmir, that has been hounding her ever since her pictures came out.

Sending chills down my spine, I am not sure how the same set of people who abused Zaira would react to this piece of writing. But on behalf of the modern, liberated and new generation of the Valley, I want Zaira to know that how proud we are of her.

Raising my voice on behalf of the real Kashmiris, we want Zaira to know that she doesn’t need to apologise to anyone for her achievements at such a young age. Rather we are sorry for not being able to see what you have done for us. It is very unfortunate that I have to say that we don’t deserve you.

Kashmir has been under severe restrictions for the past six months, post the killing of Burhan Wani. Having lived there in all these months, I can say it took a huge toll on all of us. From restrictions on daily activities to scrapping of internet services, no one knew what the Valley would have to go through next.

Surely, we are still grieving about the thousands of people who lost their sight (to pellet guns) in the most unfortunate circumstances. But does that mean that we as a Kashmiri society are so rigid that we can’t celebrate the success of this young girl. Would I be thrashed for sharing a picture with the CM on social media?

The hue and cry around this needs to stop as we must not forget that she is a kid after all. No matter what the case was, no one has the right to abuse or use demeaning words for someone who has made us so proud. In no capacity is it fair to curb anyone’s right to freedom of speech and expression. What led her to this would most likely not be known to any of us but her work would always be remembered.

Nobody has the right to dictate what a person irrespective of gender, caste, region or religion should do. If she chooses to be a part of the film fraternity, her decision should be respected and welcomed.

Surely, one does not deserve this much outrage. We stand with you Zaira!