edia for long has circulated the image of Afghan women wearing skirts and walking on the street of Kabul to tell the world how liberated Afghan women were, once upon a time till the Taliban forced them to wear Burqa. This narrative was first built when Taliban took over power in 1996. Along with many reasons liberating Afghan women became one of the missions for the US occupation of Afghanistan in 2001. The US mission was to liberate the subjugated women of Afghanistan from the clutches of the Taliban.
In twenty years preceding the current US withdrawal no one ever talked about the status of women in Afghanistan. What the occupation forces achieved in terms of women empowerment there. No media reported how many Afghan women suffered at the hands of US occupation. The wanton bombing by the US forces brought untold hardship to the people of Afghanistan and certainly did not improve the status of women there. The US occupation of Afghanistan gave untold pain and agony to the Afghan women but no media ever reported their misery.
Now when the Taliban has once again ruthlessly taken over Afghanistan, the world has erupted again circulating the old images of Afghan women wearing western clothes to build the narrative Afghan women are in need of international community to take them out from the clutches of the Taliban. However, the question remains; can the length of the skirt be made a yardstick to measure the woman’s empowerment?
There are more than twenty-five countries that are run under Sharia Laws but no media have ever criticized them for subverting the rights of the woman. However, in the case of Afghanistan, a narrative is built by circulating western clad women to suggest them enjoying a high degree of freedom that now is being snatched away with the Taliban taking over the power.
This media conspiracy still going on even after the US has decided to leave Afghanistan along with its coalition partners. The only reason for building such a narrative is the old “civilizing the world” theory of the British to make colonies so that their domination could be sustained as it is the duty of the white race to civilize the barbaric people of the world. The current global media narrative about Afghanistan fits into this scheme of things.
Coming to the Indian media that’s currently at the forefront of building anti-Taliban narrative suggest that there is outrage in the country after the Taliban gaining control in Afghanistan. The anti- Taliban reportage is making a big noise that gives the impression that India faces a real threat from Afghanistan and the entire country is in deep mental agony about the developments in Afghanistan.
The fact is American occupation has ended in Afghanistan and the Taliban has occupied Kabul, the power center of Afghanistan. Responding to these facts media is building the narrative that Indians want the Taliban to be stripped of power in Afghanistan without any clue how this can be accomplished.
The anti- Taliban stories run in Indian media suggests that wants to move the international community to have a change of heart and get back to Afghanistan? But can this be possible? Does India have that much leverage on the global arena to nudge the international community to move them into Afghanistan?
The other reason for the anti- Taliban narrative in Indian media is to build pressure on the country’s leadership to send its peace-keeping forces to save Afghanistan. Will the Indian leadership cave into its media pressure and do adventure by moving its force into Afghanistan?
If the answer to both the question is no, then why the media is building an anti-Taliban narrative in India? There are four reasons for it. First is the collective Hindu psyche is pained at the development in Afghanistan. This is because of their intense dislike towards Islam and its flowers that has gained ascendency in Afghanistan. Such forces may be happier to see Muslims and Islam being humiliated and vilified all over the world. This idea has been succinctly theorized by the celebrated Trinidad writer VS Naipaul who this phenomenon as a ‘Wounded Civilization.’
The second reason is the adage; ‘Hindus are in danger’ (Hindu khatre men hai). The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has unnerved many Indians to coin this term. But why Hindus should be in danger? This is because of the proverbial ‘straw in the thief’s beard’ (chor ke darhi men tinka). The anti-Muslim-anti-Islam political agenda carried out by the ruling party to cement the Hindu vote bank has been unnerved by the developments in Afghanistan and expect a violent reaction from there. Such forces fear that Taliban rule can be an impediment in carrying out their consolidation of the Hindu vote agenda in India. It, therefore, media is building the narrative, preparing the nation to mind the internal affairs of the other country even though it may be none of its business.
The third reason is media is building consent for the ruling BJP and helping it to sustain its grip over the domestic politics of the country. As a result, the media is awash flashing the images of the Taliban as bearded men, sporting Kalashnikovs to instill fear among the majority community. Going by the Indian media narrative it is clear that want to build the Taliban’s image as anti-Hindu so that the majority community can be united under the BJP’s bandwagon.
The fourth reason is to target the beleaguered Indian Muslim community and hold them accountable for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. This vultures approach of the Indian media against the Muslim community is seen since Covid -19 struck in 2019. First, it was the Tablighi Jamat witch hunt in March-April 2020, and then it was Muslims of Malappuram, Kerala who were vilified for an Elephant death in Palghat, bordering Tamil Nadu. Once that news was milked to the hilt, media took up the Sudersan TV, ‘Bindas Bol’ programme that targeted the Muslim community. In this chain of media diatribe against the Muslim community, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is another political agenda to humiliate the second largest community in the country.
The plight of Afghan women and the fundamentalist outlook of the Taliban have given enough ammunition to the Indian media to broomstick the Indian Muslims community. The real reason behind it is to cement the Hindu vote bank. They want the majority community to remain hooked to the BJP as it alone safeguards their interests. This is the core agenda why Taliban rule is so vociferously opposed in India. This is because it serves the political agenda of the ruling class and media tasked to prepare the people to believe that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a huge calamity for the country. Well this is Post-Truth India-The Brand New Republic
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His forthcoming book is Post-Truth India-The Brand New Republic