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My dress trolled because I’m a woman, says Shehla Rashid after Twitter slams hijab look

JNU student Shehla Rashid was criticised for covering her head during the launch of former IAS officer Shah Faesal's party in Srinagar Sunday.

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New Delhi: JNU PhD student and social activist Shehla Rashid sees a whole lot of sexism in the trolling she has received for covering her head at the launch of former IAS officer Shah Faesal’s party in Srinagar Sunday.

“Let’s be clear — it’s not a hijab, I have covered my head as a sign of respect,” Rashid, 31, told ThePrint. “Even (former Congress president) Sonia Gandhi does that, would you question her for wearing a hijab?”

A former vice-president of the JNU Student Union (JNUSU), Rashid has taken a leap into active politics with Faesal’s Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Movement, though it’s not clear yet if she will contest elections.

The party was launched Sunday, and images from the event, showing Rashid with her head covered, were soon being shared online with acerbic comments about the “regressive” image she was portraying.

Talking to ThePrint, Rashid said the comments were solely inspired by the fact that she is a woman.

“A male politician wears a suit in private, but kurta-pyjama in public. That is never questioned,” said Shehla.

“The only reason this topic has come up for discussion is because I’m a woman,” she added. “If I were a man, my dress would not be a subject of discussion.”

Also read: Female actor and TMC Lok Sabha candidate? Brace yourself for sexist Internet trolls

‘Speaking people’s language’

On Twitter, Rashid hit back at trolls with a collage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sporting various kinds of headgear.

“Men dress however they want to in politics, as you can see from the collage I have made,” she told ThePrint. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sporting a pagadi. Now that’s not even just headgear, it’s religious headgear. Why hasn’t anyone ever questioned that?”

Rashid rose to prominence leading protests against the arrest of then JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, as well as union members Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, following alleged “anti-national” chants at a rally in February 2016 against the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru three years before.

Since then, Rashid, a fierce critic of the Narendra Modi government, has emerged as a prominent activist, with her tweets critical of the administration earning her nearly 5 lakh followers on Twitter.

Asked if her choice of clothing at the launch event made her a conformist, Shehla asserted that despite covering her head, which may come across as regressive, her politics remained progressive.

“If I want to bring the women of Kashmir into politics, which is my aim, they must be able to relate to me,” said the Srinagar native. “Politics is about speaking the people’s language.”

Politicians, she added, dressed in a manner that attracted the least amount of attention.

“In politics, one tends to dress in a form that attracts the least attention,” she said. “Most politicians in India wear white kurtas. You want the focus to be on your ideology, and not your dress.”

Also read: Why can’t Shehla Rashid celebrate Sinead O’Connor’s embrace of Islam?

‘Symptom of a larger problem’

However, a political leader from Jammu and Kashmir who preferred not be named said Rashid’s criticism was not an issue of sexism, adding that Rashid was a symptom of a larger problem.

“The entire narrative in the country has become about Hindu-versus-Muslim,” the leader said. “If you have a choice, you’d obviously choose to go the Muslim way than the Hindu way in Kashmir,” the leader added.

The divisive religious narrative, according to the politician, “has caused the middle ground to fade, pushing even the liberal and secular leaders to choose sides”.

“Shehla is symbolic, so she ends up being reported about, but this is happening to a lot of people across the state,” the leader said.

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  1. Don’t worry Shehla, let them cry, they are extremist kind of people, they are sadist, will remain never satisfied and who are they to be satisfied. You keep on working for your people and country as you are doing. These people telling you what to wear, eat, extra, are the generation of those who were working for British who illegally ruled us therefore you just need to go ahead with your job.

  2. If she can’t take heat then she should get out of kitchen. People have freedom of express they’re voice. This is 21st century and general people are custom to it. And why are you bringing Modi in to it. He hasn’t said anything to it. Just play within your circle. Don’t drag whole nation in to your personal discomfort. Hope you understand what I mean.

  3. I, am sorry, that one has to go to much depths as this.
    First and foremost,irrespective of ones educational background, one does not need an exceptional education to prove one’s worth. Education merely helps to channel thoughts more clearly(hopefully). It is not a end to a end to a means rather an means to a end. In short education helps but is not a requisite.
    I, wonder what you would have to say about Mr Gandhi, who claimed to have been a graduate of Harvard University . Upon inquiry., the institution in question disclaimed and denied his very statement by saying, they had no record of his even having applied there. Yet Mr Gandhi, has gone on National television and radio waves to claim he has indeed studied at Harvard and obtained “certificates” of proficiency etc, but he refuses to produce them for public examination and verification. No one of your thinking has yet challenged it. Rather strange!!!!
    Next, never ever question a persons’, mental ability or otherwise, this lowest hit below the belt, always calls for total contempt of the person calling for it This reminds me of my grandmother , always asking, why we children were interested in other peoples mental capabilities and such like when we had pumpkins rotting at our own doorstep..
    Lastly with regard to her being married or not, is not for any one to decide. but for that individual alone to decide their status viz. marital or not. This may be her choice, or she does not want the responsibility of taking are of household affairs, or possibly why bring forth more generations when there is no safety or future for them!
    In the face of full disclosure, I would like you to note, that I am an Indian who is 84 years old, have lived outside the country since the age of 10 and also proud, that I am an Indian citizen, still after all these years. . Not only that I, am a Brahmin,, but this does not apply to judging people, their views and thoughts, food and culture with a jaundiced eye!!!!

  4. Ma.Rashid is the biggest pseudo intellectual who compares herself with Modi after winning the two bit election in JNU
    HAS she completed her studies at JNU!?
    Nobody should take this demented person seriously
    She’s looking old and haggard explains why she is still unmarried

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