A BJP leader from Telangana has objected to tennis star Sania Mirza’s appointment as brand ambassador of the newly created state and called her a “daughter-in-law of Pakistan”, stirring an unsavoury debate about a growing culture of intolerance in India.
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Dr K Laxman’s statement, made Wednesday, drew a sharp response from the 27-year-old Grand Slam-winner, who is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. “I am married to Mr Shoaib Malik, who is from Pakistan. I am an Indian who will remain an Indian until the end of my life,” she said Thursday.
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This comes as fresh embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, already smarting from the uproar over 11 MPs of the Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, trying to forcibly feed a fasting Muslim employee of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi. The party quickly distanced itself from Laxman’s remarks, prompting the cornered leader to make what seemed to be a U-turn as he told HT Mirza’s marriage to a Pakistani was not the issue.
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Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao had Tuesday named Mirza a state icon and presented her with a cheque for `1 crore. A day later, Laxman, the BJP’s floor leader in the assembly, said, “KCR has set a cut-off of 1956 to decide the domicile of students for the fee reimbursement scheme but he makes an exception for a Pakistani daughter-in-law who was born in Mumbai in 1986 and bred in Hyderabad.”
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In a series of tweets, Mirza hit back: “I was born in Mumbai as my mother needed to be in a specialist hospital since she was seriously unwell at the time of my birth.”
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