Aakanksha Gupta, a 16-year-old Indian girl who studies in Class 11 in Pathways School, Noida, wrote the letter as part of an essay-writing competition to French president Nicolas Sarkozy, criticising the burqa ban in his country. It was sent to the French premier, who decided to meet her to discuss the issue in detail. The contest required Aakanksha to write an essay in the format of a formal letter to a global leader on a global issue. “I chose to write to MrSarkozy about why I disagreed with his burqa ban in France,” said Gupta. In the letter, Akanksha was very clear about the global impact of the ban. She wrote: “Dear Mr. Sarkozy, I am not a citizen of France but I am writing to you about an issue that is of great concern to the citizens in the world.”
Her own experience of growing up in India, a melting pot of different cultures, had allowed her to understand the social tension that such a move would bring about in a society. But she was quick to point out that the moral policing faced by women in the country, especially with regards to how a woman dresses, was also a factor in her wanting to talk about this particular issue. “Women’s rights are something that I feel strongly about and I believe a woman should be free to decide how she wants to dress,” she said.
The avid Roald Dahl-lover still has over a year of school left and is visibly excited about meeting the French president next year. “I am looking forward to the meeting. I will have a lot of questions to ask him,” she said with a grin. They will meet early next year.