Actor Aamir Khan on Tuesday issued a statement in support of his Dangal co-star Zaira Wasim, who had issued an apology on social media after she was criticised for meeting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The 16-year-old actor published an “open confession/apology” after internet trolls had criticised her for meeting the chief minister. Mufti had described her as a “Kashmiri role model”. In her apology, which was later deleted, Wasim said she was hardly a role model for anyone.

Aamir Khan urged people criticising Wasim, to “leave her alone and respect the fact that she is just a 16-year-old trying her best to deal with life”. “I can understand and imagine what lead her to make that statement. Zaira, I want you to know that we are all with you. The beauty is that bright, young, talented and courageous kids like you are a role model for kids not in India, but across the world. You certainly are a role model for me!” Wasim played young Geeta Phogat in Dangal.

Internet trolls, particularly from the Kashmir Valley, questioned the teenager’s moral character for acting in the hit film and ridiculed her for sporting a short crop. “I want everyone, especially the youth, to know that there are real role models out there. To even consider me as a role model would be disgracing them,” Wasim wrote on social media, though she deleted it later. “I want to apologise to all those I’ve unintentionally hurt... I understand their sentiments, especially considering what has happened [in Kashmir] over the past six months.”

She was referring to the state of unrest in the Valley since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and wrestler Geeta Phogat have also expressed their support for the young actor.