Sports icon Sania Mirza spoke exclusively to NDTV today about the controversy that whorled around her after a BJP leader from Telangana said the new government there has wrongly chosen her as the Brand Ambassador. In comments that were condemned by the public and a series of parties including his own, K Laxman of the BJP described Ms Mirza, 27, as "the daughter-in-law of Pakistan" on account of her marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. He also said that Ms Mirza did not participate in the movement that culminated in Telangana becoming India's youngest state.
Ms Mirza, who broke down during her interview to NDTV, said it is unfair that she has to keep "asserting my Indian-ness." Here are highlights of her interview to NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt:
- It was extremely hurtful. I think it's unfair that I or we have to keep justifying our Indian-ness, keep asserting our Indian-ness again and again. Don't know if that has something to do with my gender.
- After playing for the country for as many years, after saying time and again that I have an Indian passport, after winning medals for India after I got married, don't know why I have to keep justifying that I am Indian.
- If someone is going to question my roots and question my Indian-ness, I will not let that happen.
- Am too strong to let people like this break me.
- I don't know why I am picked on, I don't know why I have to justify that I am more patriotic, why I have to act like I have to slit my wrist to prove my patriotism.
- I opened a tennis academy only so that we have more tennis players come out of the state of Telangana.
- I was really sad yesterday. I don't know if it happens in any other country where you have to keep proving that you are from that other country. It is because I am married to someone from another country, because I am a woman, I don't know.
- My family - we have never looked at another person from what religion, caste, country they come from.
- It didn't even cross my mind where my husband was from when we met. So I don't understand why this has to cross anyone else's mind.
- We live in an extremely male chauvinist society. Unfortunately, we have to deal with this as women.
- By the end of the day, I felt a lot better. I think at the end, logic prevailed. The media really stood behind me. I felt like everyone was fighting for (what is) right.
- Any other criticism doesn't affect me too much. I have lived in Hyderabad all my life; my forefathers have lived here all their lives. I am proud to be from Hyderabad, I am proud to be from Telangana.
- Am proud and humbled that the Chief Minister picked me as Brand Ambassador.
- I am way too stubborn (to give up being brand ambassador). I will do whatever it takes. I hope to make India and Telangana more well-known in the world of sport.
- My roots are here. I will be Indian for as long as I live. I am a very patriotic person that is why I am so emotional right now.
- My parents are dragged into this all the time, and it is unfair. They are my support system. Shoaib was great. He is playing in Caribbean right now. Without them, it was very difficult.