Bollywood star Aamir Khan on Tuesday described “Dangal” co-star Zaira Wasim — who came under attack after meeting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti — as a “role model”, even as “I am with Zaira” continued to be one of the top trending hashtags on the social media world.

Zaira, who has won accolades for playing the role of the younger Geeta Phogat — a Commonwealth gold medallist wrestler — met Mufti last week and the pictures of the meeting appeared online, drawing flak from some online trollers in Kashmir.

Aamir and a host of others came to the 16-year-old Kashmiri girl’s defence, urging critics to leave her alone, after she issued an apology on Monday for “unintentionally hurting people’s sentiments” by meeting Mufti. She later withdrew the apology after receiving support from well-wishers, including Bollywood celebrities and politicians.

“I have read Zaira’s statement and I can understand and imagine what led to her making that statement,” Aamir said.

“Zaira, I want you to know that we are all with you. The beauty is that bright, young, talented, hardworking, respectful, caring and courageous kids like you are a role model for all kids, not only in India but across the world.

“You certainly are a role model for me! May God bless you. Love Aamir.”

The actor underlined that Zaira was young.

“I appeal to everyone now to leave her alone and respect the fact that she is just a 16-year-old girl trying her best to deal with life,” he added.

Meanwhile, another hashtag “Kashmir stands with Zaira Wasim” appeared with scores of netizens from the valley coming out in support of the star.

“Like Tajamul (a Kashmiri kickboxing champion) and Hashim (another Kashmiri martial art champion), Zaira was also subjected to such petty politics,” wrote Mohammed Faysal and Khizer Humsaferani in a joint blogpost on www.withkashmir.com.

“So whenever there’s a success story out of Kashmir, the government and the Indian media use that as an indication of normalcy. Thus politicising the hard work and dedication of these remarkable individuals,” they wrote in support of Zaira.

“Politicians must stop appropriating the success of Kashmiris as a political point. And the media should stop making ‘savages’ out of Kashmir.”

Javid Parsa, a Kashmiri entrepreneur, urged people to leave the kid alone and stop doing politics that would shatter her dreams.

“She is a 16-year-old artist just trying to achieve her dreams like many of us. She is where she is because of her own talent and not because of any political or government agency,” Parsa, who owns popular eatery Kathi Junction in Srinagar, wrote on his Facebook page.

Author and academician Shahnaz Bashir said Kashmiris needed to be “proud of our indigenous talent and protect, love and preserve it”.

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