A Mumbai-based woman, who received criticism from right-wing groups and politicians over her 'Free Kashmir' placard at a protest in Gateway of India on 6 January, released a video message on Tuesday explaining that her intention was only to protest against the lockdown in Kashmir and highlight the restrictions imposed in the region.
As politicians swooped in to take jibes at Mehak Mirza Prabhu, a storyteller-writer by profession, she said that the motive behind her holding the placard had been misinterpreted.
While many questioned Mehak's intent to pull in the Kashmir issue at a rally where protestors extended support to the students who were attacked at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the poster had allowed the Opposition to state that "separatist elements" took part in the demonstration.
With speculations and assumptions doing the rounds on social media, Mehak in the video message posted on Facebook said, "I am Mehak, a writer from Mumbai. What happened yesterday is extremely crazy and even crazier is the reaction that it is receiving from the people. The narrative being spread about the situation is absolutely misinterpreted."
"At around 7 pm yesterday, I reached where the protest was happening at the Gateway of India. Like anybody else who believes in democracy, I also joined that protest. We were standing for justice to the JNU students. I saw a bunch of people who were painting placards on every issue like NRC, CAA and for JNU students. People were making placards related to several issues, including the NRC and CAA, and then I saw a placard lying on the side which said 'Free Kashmir'."
The girl seen with the placard 'FREE KASHMIR' at Gateway of India is Mahek Mirza. Her official statement on the entre incident. Listen in. (1/2)#JNUattack#GatewayOfIndia#FreeKashmir #MahekMirza#JNUViolence #MumbaiPolice #AzadMaidanMumbai pic.twitter.com/fxh7uxmxkw
— Shivangi Thakur (@thakur_shivangi) January 7, 2020
On seeing the placard, Mehak said the thought that came to her mind was about the basic constitutional rights of Kashmiris. Opposing the speculations, she clarified that she is not a Kashmiri and has been brought up in Mumbai.
"Contrary to the false facts being spread, I am not a Kashmiri. I am from Mumbai... a Maharashtrian. When I saw that placard, what came to my mind was about the basic constitutional rights of Kashmiris. I was, in fact, standing quietly with a flower in my hand. This means we need to make peace together. This was my only intention in holding that placard. The narrative that has been put out in the public is wrong," she said.
Asserting that the incident was scary, Mehak urged people to not spread hatred, but the words of what she actually meant.
"They are saying that I’m a member of some organisation and have been paid to stand there. This is completely untrue. The way it has gone, it is very scary. I am a simple person. As a woman, I’m very scared for my safety right now. Spread this side of my story and let's stop it here. Let us not spread the hate. It has happened to me, it can happen to anyone. We should not live in fear," she said.
Mehak's poster at the Mumbai rally went viral on Tuesday and created political controversy, wit BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis demanding to know why banners of "Free Kashmir" were raised.
"How can we tolerate such separatist elements in Mumbai? 'Free Kashmir' slogan by Azadi gang at 2 kms from the CMO? Uddhavji (Thackeray) are you going to tolerate this 'Free Kashmir' anti-India campaign right under your nose???" Fadnavis tweeted on Tuesday.
Responding to BJP's allegations, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut made it clear that it would not tolerated if anyone talks of freedom of Kashmir from India.
However, he clarified that the 'Free Kashmir' banner seen during the protest was against the restrictions on internet services, mobile services and other issues in the Valley.
"I read that those who held the 'Free Kashmir' poster clarified that they want to be free of restrictions on Internet services, mobile services and other issues. It doesn't mean that they advocate freedom from India," Raut said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jan 07, 2020 18:46:40 IST