Tennis star Sania Mirza has hit national headlines thanks to K Laxman, a BJP leader from Telangana, questioning her credentials as the brand ambassador for the state, saying that she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and is “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law.” And even as his comments get strongly criticised by political parties and Sania herself, we talk to a group of Bollywood actors, a Pakistani artist and shuttler Saina Nehwal about the issue.
Saina Nehwal, badminton player: It’s a political matter, so I don’t know what I should say about it (smiles). As a sportsperson, I have known Sania for a long time since she is from Hyderabad and is a champion player. But it’s not my place to comment on the issue.
Saif Ali Khan, actor: I think it’s a terrible thing to say. Sania has won so many trophies and awards for us. She is a sportsperson, who has given us respect and recognition. She should be treated as a jewel in our crown. India and Pakistan are related; we are estranged brothers. Many families were divided in half during Partition, so obviously there will be relatives on both sides. Civilised people realise the unique complications in our enmity and try and keep a door open culturally through music, art and sports.
Imran Abbas, Pakistani actor: I don’t know the political connotations but there are several examples where women from both the countries are married with other sides’ men. I think it’s a great thing. Such cross-border equations should be made stronger. It will only make things healthier between the two nations. India and Pakistan are historically interlinked.
Aditi Rao Hydari, actor: This notion that daughters ‘belong’ to another home after marriage is just archaic and myopic. Girls have the right to choose where they wish to live and love, and yet not have to give up their family, nation, city or home which has nurtured them. These things are not mutually exclusive and we shouldn’t need to make such choices.
Anubhav Sinha, film-maker: This is very regressive. Unless the political party that is in power endorses this statement, I won’t give much weightage to it. Obviously, it’s very disheartening from Sania’s point of view. The party must either endorse or condemn it. If the party is silent on this issue it would mean it is endorsing it.
Richa Chadda, actor: Sania Mirza is an Indian woman, who has married a man of her choice. It’s bigoted to deny her the identity that she was born with. She has done the nation proud many times. Why is it a bad thing that she is the daughter-in-law of Pakistan? Politicians who make such claims basically want to hamper any kind of peace process.
Diana Hayden, actor: We shouldn’t forget the number of accolades Sania has got. She has made our country proud on international platforms. I am a Hyderabadi, and so is she. I am married to an American and live in Mumbai, but I’ll always be a Hyderabadi as it’s in my roots. No one can take that away from me.
Talat Aziz, singer: It’s a ridiculous statement. I don’t know what to say about it. Sania was born and brought up in Hyderabad. Even her family is from Hyderabad. So, how can such a question arise? Why didn’t people have an issue when she got married? It’s sheer politics. Tomorrow, someone might make a similar statement for Saina Nehwal.