Mainstream media, social media, sportspersons, some Bollywood luminaries, some journalists – everyone who heard or read about it was outraged. Reactions flew – How could they bully a child? Why no award-wapasi this time? Don’t be afraid, we are with you. And so on.
Dangal producer and actor Aamir Khan too spoke up finally and asked people to leave Zaira alone. Some news channels interviewed the Phogat sisters, who spoke about their own hardships and advised Zaira to ignore these threats.
All this sound good but if I may ask, wasn’t this bound to happen in a place like Kashmir?
While it was heartening to see people coming in support (though some are still missing in action), it would be naive of us to believe that this was unexpected or it will make any difference in the Kashmir valley. Aided by the fact that most of those speaking up aren’t pointing out to what caused this.
This isn’t new to Kashmir. This had been happening right from the time the majority in valley supported, actively or passively, the Islamic fanatics and terrorists. The first blow to women’s liberation was in 1989 itself when fatwa was issued to them to cover their heads. Two orders were passed that time – one, asking Muslim women to cover their heads; and two, instructing Hindu alias Pandit women to sport a bindi. The dress code was also defined, salwar-kameez for Muslims, Hindus were allowed to wear saris. Although the distinction was made on the basis of religion, what remained common was their fate – subjugation.
Beauty parlours were also ordered to shut down. And in order to ensure the enforcement of these orders, acid attacks were carried on women who dared to defy them. I refuse to believe the State didn’t know about these threats; as reports suggest that even Delhi was aware about them. But nothing was done to infuse confidence among the fearful women. I was a child then but remember my outrage at the fatwa.
The history repeated itself some years back. If I remember right, in 2013, Kashmir’s first all-girl rock band called Pragaash had to disband their group after they received threats by extremists. Their actions were termed un-Islamic by many. Everyone in the country was angry. The then state government did extend support to the group, but fanatics had their way. I don’t remember hearing about this band’s performance ever again.
Some time back, I visited the valley. I was going there for the first time after 1990. While much had changed there, one thing that remained unchanged was the headscarf sported by all women – from a primary school student to nonagenarians. The fatwa that was issued in 1989 was still being followed here.
It would be wrong to say I was surprised, but yes, I was outraged. It hurt to see women, some who were my classmates, all bowing down to extremists here. But then, they have little choice. This after all, is unlike any other place in the country – it is Kashmir, the playground of Pakistan backed bigots who, when unable to defeat the state, resort to strength-show by crushing the rights of women. How then could Zaira Wasim not become its latest victim? Wasn’t the latest incident in the making since years?