The Hindu – Jammu & Kashmir: Before Zaira, there were sports champions and IAS topper

But just a week later, a picture with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made her a villain overnight

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 22 January 2017. On January 12, Dangal actor Zaira Wasim, 16, posted a message on Facebook, “I have also cleared [Class 10 exams]. Don’t know how!”. She was greeted with a torrent of congratulatory messages, with no trolling.

But just a week later, a picture with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made her a villain overnight.

The disenchanted and alienated population of Kashmir, besides religious extremists, suddenly saw Ms. Wasim as a target for their anger over the prolonged curfew and death of over 90 civilians in the unrest in the summer of 2016. It was easy and just a click away.

The young actor is not the first person to struggle to come to terms with this unpredictable behaviour.

From 27-year-old cricketer Pervaiz Rasool, who has played for India, to IAS topper Shah Faesal and eight-year-old kick-boxing wizard Tajamul Islam, who has been trained by the Army, there has been an attempt by a sizeable number to use such achievers as targets for their their disenchantment with the State and to score a political point.

Several people set on fire a calendar featuring young Tajamul recently. Cricketer Rasool is often confronted with a barrage of questions on the nature of politics.

‘Getting mixed up’

Mr. Faesal, whose house resounded with firecrackers burst by the local people to celebrate his success in the IAS examinations in 2010, said, “My feat was celebrated again and again.

However, of late, people’s achievements get mixed up with local politics. There is a vocal minority that undermines peoples’ achievements and questions whether to celebrate it.”

Lampooned online often for his political views, Mr. Faesal said, “I have thousands of followers on social media with whom I engage through my posts … In Zaira’s case, many people rallied behind her.

So, it’s a new beginning where people have started celebrating success. Earlier, there was an overriding thought of the State sponsoring the talent. The paradigm is shifting.”

Gowhar Geelani, a columnist and political commentator, blames the narratives emanating from mainland India for reactions here.

“We stood for our young achievers in every field. We stood for pellet-hit Insha and others who died in 2016 … But we refuse to be part of the crafty grand narratives and hollow ‘surgical strikes’ of the Indian liberal class that only wake up when it suits them,” Mr. Geelani said.

Separatist leaders like Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have maintained a distance from the controversy, only saying “We have nothing to do with it”

Focus on Mehbooba

Hameeda Nayeem, a Professor of English at Kashmir University and wife of Hurriyat leader Nayeem Khan, sees no role of separatists in the Zaira controversy.

“The media is grossly misrepresenting the case. Nobody is against Zaira acting. Some youngsters have shown displeasure with her meeting the CM, who is using any opportunity to bolster her own position after what happened in 2016,” said Ms. Nayeem.

“The Zaira episode is symbolic of how the Indian apparatus sees every little Kashmiri endeavour, be it in education, entertainment or sports, as a tool to be used to show how Kashmiris are “integrating”.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Before-Zaira-there-were-sports-champs-and-IAS-topper/article17075635.ece

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