“Free Kashmir” placard holder apologises, bats for J&K peace
Mumbai: The woman behind the controversial “Free Kashmir” placard displayed at the protest rally at the Gateway of India here on Tuesday said she was just demanding lifting of restrictions in the new Union Territory and claimed her act has been “blown out of proportion”.
The placard with “Free Kashmir” message, held aloft by a woman at the Gateway of India on Monday during the protest against the violence inside the JNU campus on Sunday night, had caught the attention of many.
As it snowballed into a controversy and triggered a war of words between ruling and opposition leaders, the woman, Mehak Prabhus, issued an apology, while Maharashtra government ordered a probe into her “antecedents”.
“If by being naive in understanding the impact it would have and in the process create this stir, I apologise. I am an artist who believes in basic human compassion. Let power of love overcome hate,” she said.
A large number of students, common citizens and activists had taken part in the protest rally at the Gateway of India in south Mumbai.
In a video statement, Prabhus, a resident of Mumbai, said through the poster she was just highlighting the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which had been put under a slew of communication curbs post revocation of its special status by the Centre on August 5.
“In the last five months, the basic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been taken away. If we say they are ‘ours’, then we should treat them accordingly. They should get the basic rights that we are getting,” she said.
“They should have the freedom of expression, and with that thought, I had raised the poster,” she said.
As soon as Prabhus’s photo went viral on social media, BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis objected to her “Free Kashmir” message.
In a late Monday night tweet, Fadnavis asked, “How can we tolerate such separatist elements in Mumbai.”
Fadnavis sought to know what exactly was the protest for and if Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will tolerate this “anti-India campaign” right under his nose.
Maharashtra minister Jayant Patil accused Fadnavis of trying to confuse people by “decoding words” in a hateful manner.
“Devendraji, it’s ‘free kashmir’ from all discriminations, bans on cellular networks and central control. I can’t believe a responsible leader like you is trying to confuse people by decoding words in such a hatred way. Is it losing power or losing self control?” Patil tweeted.
Expressing her anguish over the way the message has been received in some quarters, Prabhus said she was just stressing on peace.
“I was quietly standing. Actually, there were flowers in my hand. It was meant to be offering peace. Let’s make peace together. That was my only intension in holding that placard,” she said.
But it has been “blown out of proportion” completely, she added.
“And I do not understand why they are now calling me a member of some gang or some organisation and suggesting that I have been paid to stand there,” Prabhus wondered.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the antecedents of the woman are being probed.
Talking to reporters, he said the woman’s background is being verified.
“If she is involved in any anti-national activity, action would be taken against her,” Deshmukh said.