“Justice with you is to kill you,” screamed a pamphlet in Srinagar yesterday as the protests against the Dangal actress Zaira Wasim turned nasty. What warrants such an extreme reaction for a teenager who has earned huge acclaim for Jammu and Kashmir through her stellar show in the biggest Bollywood hit of all times? Well, she met J & K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti recently and the CM referred to Zaira as a ‘role model’ for Kashmiris. Hell broke loose as Zaira was trolled and she issued a scared apology referring to who really qualifies for being Kashmiri role models and why she is ashamed of herself.
After the brazen death threats that were issued on the Srinagar streets yesterday, it becomes clear that Zaira’s apology must have stemmed from grave threats to her and her family. I met Zaira on December 27 last year before a video interview with her, Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Nitesh Tiwari and Suhani Bhatnagar. I congratulated her for the phenomenal performance and she came across as a simple, innocent and down to earth girl. During the course of the interview I noticed that she is an ambitious actress who wants her talent to be noticed in a big way. It is heart-breaking to see the same smiling girl being pitted against such difficult circumstances less than a month after I met her last.
What is Zaira’s fault? She chose to let her wings fly instead of confining herself to a misplaced ideology? Why is she being made to defend herself as if she is a victim of women being caged in hijab by opportunist politicians? The ‘actors’ who suddenly consider her their ‘role model’ were promoting Nazi ‘Pest Control’ a few months back and stayed completely silent when the innocent children became victims of pellet guns in the Kashmir valley.
What is happening with Zaira Wasim today reminds me in a scary way about what happened with Malala Yusufzai in the Swat valley not-so-long-ago. No, we don’t want Zaira to be tested like this. She needs help and she needs it now. She is the lead actor in Aamir Khan Productions’ Secret Superstar and I am sure she can make a big career for herself in the movies. Her twitter bio reads, ‘Hi, I am lame’. No Zaira, you are not lame. You are a free bird and you should be proud of your sturdy wings. Fly high!