As someone who grew up in a secular atmosphere, actor Dia Mirza says she is pained when people are viewed through a religious lens.
The actor, who was born to a Christian father, a Bengali mother and raised in a Muslim home, says her identity has never been limited to religion, culture, caste or community.
"My identity has always been of a citizen of this planet and a human being. It bothers me when identities are viewed through a religious lens. If you go back to history, every time human beings have moved towards majoritarianism, they have gone away from inclusivity and they have suffered. They have suffered at the hands of fear," Dia told PTI.
The actor said those who propagate singular ideologies are the ones "who want to control us."
"People want to control us by driving or re-enforcing fear. The only thing which can free us from this fear is art. This is why art exists. This is why we tell stories. We tell stories to evoke human empathy, compassion and to navigate human compass.
"Prejudices and labels limit us. We aren't born with any understanding of what faith, religion, community or country we belong to. We are taught prejudices which have done nothing but harm us. We need to unlearn all of them," she said.
Dia will be next seen on ZEE5's Kashmir-set web series "Kaafir", which chronicles the life of a young Pakistani woman (Dia) who comes to India through a strange series of circumstances and is unable to return home.
The series revolves around the relationship between the woman, who is accused of militancy, and her Indian lawyer (Mohit Raina) who makes her justice his sole objective.
"Doing the show has been truly empowering. It is actually with a great sense of urgency that we told this story. It's done in a manner that is inclusive. That's the most powerful thing about 'Kaafir.
"While my character may belong to Pakistan and Mohit's may belong to India, I don't think we are limited to these demarcations. People in any part of the world will resonate with these characters."
When asked what was her understanding of the politics and conflict of Jammu and Kashmir, the actor said such conflicts serve as a reminder of how humanity has failed the region.
"We speak of peace, opportunity, equality and then you see what happens on the other end, where regions are torn and ravaged over a period of time.
"That have robbed children of their childhood, youth of the opportunities and have deprived them of basic human right. It's not just heartbreaking, it's deeply agonising."
The actor recalls how she was invited by the Indian army two years ago to Baramulla and what she saw there troubles her even today.
"Everytime, I looked outside the window, I saw the most pristine environment, beautiful mountains that surrounded us. But the windows of the people who lived there were shut.
"When the army officer asked me when would I like to come back, I said 'I hope when I return these windows and doors are open'. We won't think twice before opening our windows but these people can't do that. This is what it means to live in conflict."
"Kaafir", written by Bhavani Iyer and directed by Sonam Nair, is set to stream from June 15.