Kashmiri teenager Zaira Wasim, whose performance as young Geeta Phogat in biographical sports drama ‘Dangal’ earned her plaudits, was forced to apologise publicly after her pictures with Mehbooba Mufti went viral on social media, and the Jammu & Kashmir chief minister described her as a “Kashmiri role model”.
The 16-year-old from Srinagar, who was virulently trolled on Twitter, made two Facebook posts explaining her position on Monday, before deleting these as well. Trolls laid into her and the J&K CM for being “Indian agents”. But Zaira was defended by wrestler Geeta Phogat and writer Javed Akhtar on TV .”I am being projected as a role model for Kashmiri Youth. I want to make it very clear that I do not want anyone to follow in my footsteps or even consider me as a role model.” I ‘m not proud of what I’m doing and I want everyone, especially the youth, to know that there are real role models out there whether they be in this time or history. To even consider me as a role model would be disgracing them and their disgrace would be our disgrace,” she wrote.
Seeking forgiveness, Zaira wote, “I want to apologise to all those people who I’ve unintentionally hurt… especially considering that what had happened over the past six months.”
Zaira’s apology evoked massive reactions in and outside the valley. Several young men and women extended their support to her on social media.
Writer Javed Akhtar told TV channels, “The azadi lot can’t bear to see a 16-year-old having her own sesne of azadi.”
Wrestler Geeta Phogat jumped to Zaira’s defence, saying, “She shouldn’t be scared, the nation is with her. There’s no need for Zaira to issue an apology. She has not done anything wrong. We have made the nation proud by winning medals. Zaira has worked hard to play my role.”
She added, “Zaira is a simple girl. She used to ask about wrestling. She has done wonderful wrestling in the movie.”
Speaking about her public apology, Geeta said, “She is hurt and that is why she apologised. Everyone should be proud.”Tahira Akthar, a member of Kashmir’s civil society, said, “We wish to see Zaira in many more films so that she becomes the real icon of Kashmir valley …”Khalid Shah of downtown Srinagar said, “Every time a young Kashmiri achieves some success and brings good name to Kashmir, separatists and their henchmen feel threatened as their much-cherished narrative of victimhood is nullified. Truth is, some fringe elements are against success, progress and want young Kashmiris to become cannon fodder in the narrative of secessionist forces.”Chairperson of State Com mission for Women Nayeema Mehjoor said Zaira’s harassment “cannot be approved by any right thinking member of our society . We should welcome such young Kashmiri girls for realizing their potential and hidden talent”.National Conference chief Omar Abdullah supported her too. He tweeted: “A 16-year-old shouldn’t be forced to apologise & that too allegedly for meeting @MehboobaMufti. What are we coming to!!!!!”