Zaira Wasim is not Malala; let's not make her the poster girl for women empowerment

The media clearly doesn't need to provide Zaira any kind of protection when she needs none. She is not a Malala Yousafzai working in the Taliban-controled Swat valley of Pakistan for a girl's right to education.

BJP leader and Sports Minister Vijay Goel’s tweet to Dangal actress Zaira Wasim comparing her to a Muslim girl trapped in a burqa was not only unwarranted but also in a bad taste. It exposed his insidious schemes of using a 16-year-old girl in a highly political debate targeting the faith she practices. It must be noted that BJP has a way of using rights of women in Islam as a political hook. The party’s promise of bringing Uniform Civil Code is largely based on the ‘evil’ practice of triple talaq in Islam. So, Goel’s tweet was very much in line with the politics of BJP.


vijay-goelOn her part, Wasim rightly took on Goel’s unabashed attempt at dragging her into a political controversy and shut him up by saying “women in hijab are free and beautiful” and that she didn’t agree with his depiction of women in the valley in particular and Muslim women in general as being trapped in a hijab or a burqa. Gutsy and articulate by all means. Isn’t it?

zaira wasim vijay goel But one obvious thought comes, if we were to keep aside the seemingly nefarious intentions of Goel: why didn’t Wasim show similar guts and articulation in taking down the trolls in the valley?

Read more: Be it Zaira Wasim or Shah Faesal, achievers from Kashmir are walking on a double edged sword

They were far more humiliating in nature. She was targeted with sexist filth for acting in a Bollywood film by Islamic hardliners. She was pitted against pellet gun victims and made to feel guilty for no fault of her own. None of this made her angry. Instead, she chose to apologise and asked people not to look up to her as a “role model” and that she is not “proud of what she is doing”.


Obviously, it is entirely her personal choice. It’s for her to decide if she wants to encourage the girls from valley to do more mainstream work and take a stand against the kind of horror the all-girls band in Kashmir Pragaash had to face before disbanding.

It is also her right to protect herself from becoming a pawn in the national narrative of the Kashmir issue and give it back to people like Goel. And most importantly, it is her right to continue doing the good work she is doing for herself without trying to be the representative of any religion or state. She doesn’t have to spell out her political views or take a stand on the decades-old Kashmir conflict. But then there is no need for the media to jump to her rescue and glorify her for taking a stand against Goel or project her as a victim if she apologises to Islamic hardliners. There is no need to merge her celluloid persona of taking on the boys by mastering the sport of wrestling and make her a poster girl for women empowerment in the valley. The media clearly doesn’t need to provide her any kind of protection when she needs none. She is not a Malala Yousafzai working in the Taliban-controled Swat valley of Pakistan and braving bullets for standing up for a girl’s right to education. She is just an actor from the valley who has the agency to defend herself when needed. Let’s respect Zaira Wasim’s plea and not create a role model out of her.

Read more: The tale of selective outcry: While Zaira Wasim gets India’s support, cries of other Kashmiri victims go unheard