Sania Mirza hits back in nationality row


An MP from India’s ruling BJP party has questioned the appointment of tennis star Sania Mirza as brand ambassador of the newly-created state of Telangana because she is married to a Pakistani.

K Laxman said Mirza’s marriage to cricketer Shoaib Malik had made her a “daughter-in-law” of Pakistan.

Mirza has responded by saying she is “an Indian and will remain so until the end of my life”.

The tennis star was appointed the state’s brand ambassador on Tuesday.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao handed over a letter of appointment and a cheque for 10m rupees ($166,380; £97,775) to the 27-year-old tennis player at a function in the state capital, Hyderabad.

The chief minister described her as a “true Hyderabadi” and said that “Telangana is proud” of her.

But now, an unsavoury row has broken out with Mr Laxman, the BJP MP from Telangana, questioning Mirza’s credentials since her husband is a Pakistani.

Mr Laxman also says that the tennis player is not fit for the honour as she is not local – he says she was born in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra and that her family moved to Hyderabad later.

An upset Mirza responded by saying she was indeed born in a hospital in Mumbai as her mother needed specialist care, but that she returned home to Hyderabad when she was three weeks old.

“My forefathers have lived in Hyderabad for more than a century,” CNN-IBN quoted her as saying.

“I am married to Shoaib Malik, who is from Pakistan. I am an Indian, who will remain an Indian until the end of my life. My family belongs to Hyderabad for more than a century and I strongly condemn any attempts made by any person to brand me an outsider,” she said.

“It hurts me that so much time is being wasted on a petty issue of my being appointed as brand ambassador of Telangana,” she added.

The spat quickly went viral on social media with many coming out to defend Mirza, while others criticised her appointment.

“Honestly there are many who could represent Telangana better than #SaniaMirza… and not ask for any money also in return,” tweeted journalist DeepikaBhardwaj.

But author Sonia Faleiro tweeted: “Ironically, it’s #SaniaMirza who has given #India so much to be proud of. Certain politicians, on the other hand, only fill us with shame.”

Activist and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarnir wrote: “A terrific ace from #SaniaMirza that has floored her narrow-minded critics: I am an Indian and will remain so until the end of my life.”