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Echoes of freedom with limits: Four years ago, Pragaash was Zaira Wasim

Wasim, a Kashmiri Muslim, was targeted and trolled for meeting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who has come under severe criticism for her handling of the recent unrest in the Valley.

Written by Tarishi Verma |
January 17, 2017 12:56:38 pm
Zaira wasim, zaira wasim facebook post, zaira wasim apology, zaira wasim actor, zaira wasim kashmir, dangal, dangal actor, dangal actor Zaira wasim, Jammu and kashmir, Pragaash, Pragaash band, all girls band, Kashmir girls band, Kashmiri muslims, women safety, J&K girl, kashmir Zaira wasim, mehbooba mufti, Zaira wasim facebook post, Zaira wasim posts, kashmir unrest, kashmir valley unrest, india news, indian express news One wonders how a 16-year-old, who has been winning hearts with her powerful performance, can becomes a political play ball?

In the battle of cultures, ideologies and freedoms, women are almost always the worst victims, being at the bottom rung of social hierarchies. Zaira Wasim, the girl who played teenaged Geeta Phogat in Dangal, is the latest to come in line of ire for her ‘apparent political inclinations’.

Wasim, a Kashmiri Muslim, was targeted and trolled for meeting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who has come under severe criticism for her handling of the recent unrest in the Valley. Wasim had to apologise for the meeting that she later deleted. She even appealed to not take her as a role model. She then posted a clarification for that post, which she also later deleted.

WATCH VIDEO |Actor Aamir Khan Defends Dangal Girl Zaira Wasim: Here’s What He Said

One wonders how a 16-year-old, who has been winning hearts with her powerful performance, can become a political play ball? This, however, shouldn’t be a surprise. Zaira Wasim takes us back to 2013 when the all-girls band Pragaash, also from J&K had to disband after a fatwa was issued against them, calling their act of singing and performing western music as “un-Islamic”.

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Pragaash who?

In 2012, a group of teenaged girls from the Presentation Convent School in Srinagar formed a rock band. For their first public performance, they participated in a Battle of Bands competition organised by the Indian paramilitary force where they won the third prize. However, instead of the prize catapulting their band to more music and fame, it brought them down. Soon after their performance, the girls in the band received abuse, especially on social media, from the Muslim community in Jammu & Kashmir. They were called “sluts” and there were even calls to ban them and their families from the religion. Even then, they continued to make music with the support of their manager Adnan Matoo.

“They are young. They cried after seeing the abusive comments online. I told them such things keep happening in the social media,” he had then told NDTV.

“Indecent behaviour”

Even as the online abuse failed to deter them, it was Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad’s fatwa that broke the girls. Grand Mufti cast serious aspersions on the nature of music itself and blamed it for the “bad things” that were happening in the Indian society.

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“Singing is not in accordance with Islamic teachings,” he had then said. He also called the formation of a western rock band “indecent behaviour” from the girls and that “when girls and young women stray from the rightful path… this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction.” On February 3, 2013, he issued a fatwa against them.

WATCH VIDEO | Dangal Girl Zaira Wasim Posts Apology On Facebook Without Saying What It Is For

The then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah even tweeted in support of the girls, saying “the talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons.” He later deleted the tweets.

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“Music was our passion…did not know it was un-Islamic”

After the fatwa was issued, the girls decided to quit the band. While their manager maintained that they disbanded because of the online threats and abuse, one of the members, in a telephonic interview, told CNN-IBN that the fatwa made them quit.

In the statement to the BBC, they said: “Music was our passion. We did not know it was un-Islamic. There are many artistes from Kashmir who are performing. But they did not issue a fatwa against them. They did not stop them… But we are being stopped. We respect their opinion and we have quit. But I don’t know why we are being stopped.”

Omar Abdullah deleting his tweets in support of them seemed to add insult to injury. The girls became entities of political abuse for all parties who grabbed the opportunity to proclaim their own party’s openness to freedom of speech. Eventually, the girls had to ask the media to give them some privacy and not cover them. Pragaash now doesn’t share the light.

Even as Omar Abdullah now comes in support of Zaira Wasim, it is all but evident that this is a fight women have to fight alone. The top clerics and the top politicians only move their tongues for political motives. In Wasim’s case, no official fatwa has been issued. Her act of meeting CM Mufti was branded un-Islamic. Ironically enough, in Wasim’s next film Secret Superstar, she plays a young Muslim girl who wants to play music but is not allowed to do so by her father.

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Even after giving an enthralling performance in the top grossing Dangal, she is forced to say that she is not a role model for anyone. For a young superstar with incredible talent, these are not the things she should be dealing with. No one should dictate political sensibilities to a teenager who is still possibly discovering her own path. If freedom is what you fight for, freedom is what you should allow as well.

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First published on: 17-01-2017 at 12:56:38 pm
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