Hyderabad- Tennis star Sania Mirza today condemned a BJP leader's comments describing her as "Pakistan's daughter-in-law," saying "I am Indian, I will always remain one."
K Laxman, a BJP state legislator, had said that the credentials of Ms Mirza, 27, as brand ambassador for Telangana are questionable on two fronts- he says she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and is not local enough.
"So, my family belongs to Hyderabad for more than a century and I strongly condemn any attempts by any person, whosoever, to brand me an outsider," Ms Mirza said in a statement.
"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 added, saying she was hurt that "so much precious time of prominent politicians and the media is being wasted" on the issue.
Mr Laxman had said Sania was born in Maharashtra and her family moved later to Hyderabad. But Ms Mirza asserted that her family has lived in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, since 1908 when her great-grandfather moved there.
The ruling TRS, headed by K Chandrasekhara Rao, defended its decision on Ms Mirza. "This is foolish talk. We don't care what anyone says. She is an international achiever," said the party's Keshava Rao. K Kavitha, a parliamentarian and the chief minister's daughter, pointed out that Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has Bollywood mega-icon Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador, even though he is not from the state.
Hanumantha Rao of the Congress, a parliamentarian from Telangana, is among those who disagree with Ms Mirza's new post. "She hasn't worked in Telangana before. It's not about being married to a Pakistani player, it is because she hasn't worked in Telangana," he said.
Women politicians and activists censured the comments against Ms Mirza as misogynistic. "Calling @MirzaSania 'daughter-in-law of Pak' ugly sexism. BJP pl don't force feed us this jingoist khap-mindedness! V r proud of Sania (sic)," tweeted Kavita Krishnan, a women's rights activist.
While announcing on Monday that she would serve as its brand ambassador, the Telangana Chief Minister had described Ms Mirza as "the daughter of Hyderabad" and sanctioned a crore for her coaching and training.