Views from Srinagar
FROM Minister Vijay Goel to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to Omar Abdullah to Bollywood personalities – they have created a political ring for their own Dangal [arena] at the cost of a bright shining star of Kashmir, the 16-year-old Zaira Waseem who has achieved stardom by her own efforts and not on the crutches of politics. Embedded in tolerant and vibrant society of Kashmir having centuries old vision for women to excel Zaira Waseem at the age of sixteen sprouted like a flower and once more showed that there is no dearth of talent in Kashmir in any field. This teenage girl from Srinagar achieved something extraordinary, waving thousands of fans wherever she goes; the dazzling Zaira Waseem has a real smile on her face as she is now a star for being part of Amir Khan’s blockbuster Dangal.
Politicians will always remain politicians, like one popular advertisement one-liner ‘men will always be men’. These people started stealing the radiance and popularity of Zaira to cover up their own grey areas. It all started on January 14 when some backroom boys suggested a photo op to project Zaira as role model for the young Kashmiri girls. It is natural that her success in Bollywood will be an inspiration for hundreds of teenage girls. Zaira Waseem meeting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti created a storm on social media and she was trolled, harshly. Sensing trouble the teenager immediately posted an apology and subsequently deleted the post. It reminds us of a similar situation faced by the all-girl rock band in year 2013, when they were trolled in a similar fashion after they participated in a CRPF sponsored concert. They also posted an apology and subsequently deleted the post.
Indian mainstream media on both the occasions tried to give their own interpretation by calling Kashmiri society radical and intolerant out to harm any girl or women who attempts to make a place for herself. Had Kashmiri society been intolerant with gender bias how could we have produced women of repute in different fields be it singing, acting, arts, education, bureaucracy and even flying airplanes? If our society would have been so regressive, the journey of Zaira Waseem would have been stopped by her family and by her neighborhood when she was herself very reluctant to act in the film.
If Zaira Waseem has grabbed the headlines in 2017, in 2016 there were girls shot at with pellets and blinded who also made news. How many Indian newspapers and news channels showed their pictures and narrated their tales? Perhaps none, and the reason is because it does not fit the narrative and propaganda for which they get paid. But media is not the only party to be blamed, as politicians also did not show the real empathy with the victims. When they did it was only as a cheap publicity stunt.
If a minor girl is shot at and blinded in any other state by police, Indian media would wage its own war against that state and against the government. In Kashmir, they adopt a different yardstick, by pretending to be partially blind. Then politicians, human rights bodies, Bollywood celebrities also fail to show up as champions of rights. Had it been the case, we would have seen Insha’s case being pleaded from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Thanks to the controversy Zaira Waseem within days has shown an exceptional maturity and displayed the same when she answered on twitter Union Minister of Sports Vijay Goel who tried to compare her with a painting of a girl with hijab who has been confined. Zaira in the process has started understanding the uncertainties and fears beneath the Kashmiri society and has only reciprocated the same while answering Vijay Goel. There has been a conscious effort in India especially through the television channels to portray Kashmiri people as intolerant, communal and regressive with a deep-rooted gender bias. This effort is the part of a game plan to show Kashmir in bad light and to hit them hard in forums to show them as the people who have no right to ask for their own rights.
Kashmir society has embraced her and has accepted her choice of displaying her talent. Our society especially our angry teenagers should understand that they should delink individual achievements from the larger picture of conflict. Because the moment we see such achievements through the prism of political narratives ours will become jaundiced. There is a lesson for all those overzealous nationalist media channels that whatever they will cook to portray Kashmir as a radicalized society will boomerang and Zaira Waseem controversy is a lesson for them to learn for future. They should not try to brush aside ground realities in Kashmir and beam false stories like Zaira Waseem receiving death threats.
—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir