The protester who held a placard reading 'Free Kashmir' during a rally near Mumbai's Gateway of India in solidarity with Delhi's JNU students has come out with a clarification defending her now-controversial message.
Mehak Mirza Prabhu posted a video on YouTube where she said that her act was "misinterpreted" and that her message was meant to draw focus on the five-month-long Internet blockade in the region. She also stated she is a native of Maharashtra and not of Kashmir.
"The narrative that has been put out is absolutely misinterpreted... Like anybody else who believes in a democracy, I also joined the protest. People were holding placards about many issues like NRC, CAA, (violence against) JNU students and while I was there I spotted a placard that read 'Free Kashmir', Mehak Prabhu said.
Mehak Prabhu, who describes herself as a fictional storyteller, said holding the 'Free Kashmir' placard was meant to stand in solidarity with Kashmiris who were out of internet coverage for five months. "When I saw this placard the first thing that came to my mind is that we are here to talk about basic Constitutional rights and freedom and those rights are gone for Kashmiris as it is under a five-month-long internet shutdown."
She added that Kashmiris have the right to enjoy the freedom of expression as like any other Indian. Internet connections were snapped on August 5 across the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir last year to avoid unrest following the abrogation of Article 370. The government has periodically been lifting curbs on communication services.
"I was standing there with a flower in my hand to say 'let's offer peace'. That was my only intention to hold that placard."
Mehak Prabhu also remarked on the response to her poster. "The way this has gone is very scary. I'm just a simple person. As a woman its scary right now. So please share my side of the story. Let's not spread hate; if it can happen to me, it can happen to everyone. We don't want to live in so much fear."