#ZairaWasim It’s happening again. A woman is being expected to bear the burden of nationalist agendas – both Indian and Kashmiri nationalist agendas. 16 year old actor Zaira Wasim from Srinagar was criticized by some for betraying Kashmiri sentiment by meeting Mehbooba Mufti who has presided over the massacre of Kashmiris. She responded voluntarily with considerable grace, expressing empathy, understanding and respect for those sentiments given the events in Kashmir of the past six months – a reference to the brutality of pellets and bullets. She also gently reminded these critics that she was just 16, and did not see herself as an icon or role model. How fair is it to treat a teenager as representative of political aspirations – publicly attacking her for meeting a CM?
She was also trolled for being unislamic or sinful for acting in films. Note that she makes no apology to such trolls, preferring to ignore them.
Unsurprisingly the Indian media jumped onto the bandwagon, making matters worse. They claim – with no basis – that she was ‘forced’ to apologize – something she expressly denies. They describe the trolling as ‘terror’. Why is is not terror when Hindutva types troll Tina Dabi or Modi bhakts troll me? Why is it terror when some Kashmiris troll someone? Sections of Indian media seeking to make Zaira Wasim bear the burden of being a ‘good Kashmiri’ – I. E a Kashmiri that the Indian State can approve of – are just as bad if not much worse than those trolling her for being a ‘bad Kashmiri’ – I. E one who betrays Kashmiri sentiment by meeting the CM. Indian media also deliberately equates Kashmiri pro Azaadi sentiment with religious fundamentalism – something Zaira herself did not do. Sections of Indian media also chose to ignore the fact that just as in India and among Hindus, there were many Kashmiris and Kashmiri Muslims who supported Zaira – especially against those who tried to brand her ‘sinful’ or ‘unislamic.’ The same media could well turn around and attack Zaira tomorrow and call upon producers to boycott her – if they stop painting her a victim of ‘terror by separatist trolls’ and recognise that she expressed respect for Kashmiri sentiment in the context of the pain of the past six months.
Zaira is not a Beti that any of us need to Bachao. She doesn’t need pats of approval – either of Indian or Kashmiri nationalism – on her back. She is a fine actor and a teenager who needs to be allowed to find her own path, make her own mistakes, take her own risks, enjoy her own successes and failures, make her way to adulthood – without being forced into bearing burdens of Indian or Kashmiri nationalism or honour. She needs us to lay off.