The withdrawal of the United States Army from Afghanistan has brought the Taliban to power. The scenario in Afghanistan is alarming as minorities, and others, desperately attempt to leave the country. The record of the previous Taliban rule is flashing before the world, particularly the oppression of women and imposition of their version of Sharia law. It is their demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha that tells the world what the Taliban stands for. Some hope the exit of foreign powers will change Taliban rule, but events so far make this expectation ring hollow.
Regardless of how Afghans plot their future, it is most surprising that a section of the Indian media—which many disparagingly identify as godi media—has taken to non-stop coverage of the Taliban takeover. They are toeing the ruling party’s line, spending a significant share of airtime on perceived threats to India from the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
These anchors on TV never spare a chance to criticise those who “felt the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan will not affect India”. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police recently arrested six suspected terrorists and alleged that they were trained in Pakistan to conduct terrorist strikes in India. Their alleged motive was to thwart the democratic process in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next year. The TV channels immediately caught on to this episode, claiming it connects with events in Afghanistan.
Other than attacking those critical of the ruling government, TV channels were busy for a month presenting viewers with the horrors Taliban rule entails. Their concerns may be valid, but the cheek-by-jowl coverage the Taliban is getting is out of proportion. They make it seem like the only problem Indians face is the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan. For a large section of Indians, growing unemployment, the farmer movement, the rising atrocities against Dalits and women, and price rise are primary concerns. This narrative is absent from the media. Nor do they provide coverage to the intimidation of religious minorities in India, and even if they do, there is no attempt to be objective. Instead, this section of the media presents the religious minorities themselves as the culprits. The ‘hate Muslims’ sentiment has strengthened ever since the Taliban came to power.
The language in the media portrays the Taliban as representatives of all Muslims anywhere, as though it embodies some universally accepted Islamic values. The aim is to cast a deep shadow on Indian Muslims, increasing their alienation and marginalisation. The 2016 report, What Muslims Want, the most extensive research of British Muslims ever conducted, found that nine of ten British Muslims reject terrorism outright.” However, this powerful section of the media is unconcerned with the politics behind the Taliban's coming to power. It does not bother to introspect why countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, do not have similar politics.
If the mainstream media correlates fundamentalist Islam represented by the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, and the politics of the last five decades in the oil-rich parts of the world, it would give away the truth. However, that would not suit the sectarian politics in India, and it would challenge the economic and political interests of corporates who control this media.
Fact is, western imperialism is out to control and plunder the resources of the world. In the last few decades after the colonial era ended, the United States and its cohort sought to control oil resources and markets worldwide. In a way, the people of West and Central Asia, rich in oil and other natural resources, suffer due to their wealth. America funded youth training in the retrograde version of Islam in Af-Pak, leading to the mujahideen and the Taliban. During the Cold War, it perpetrated imperialist designs in the name of a ‘free world’, which meant opposing communism. The Soviet Union supported several national liberation struggles, which the United States did not want. The war in Vietnam is the best example of how America pursued its anti-communist agenda through waging wars far from its borders.
After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States intensified its support to local fundamentalist groups. The Saudi regime helped train the youth, though mostly America supported the Mujaheddin, the Taliban, and even Al-Qaeda. The syllabus was prepared in Washington, America funded it, and youngsters got lured into fundamentalist schools where it was taught. It was a close collaboration between the CIA and the ISI of Pakistan, which indoctrinated the youth and gave them sophisticated weapons.
Their goal was to ally with the Afghan forces to defeat the USSR. Recall the 1985 visit of hardcore Islamists to the White House, where Ronald Regan hosted them. He brought them to the Oval Office and said, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.” Let us be blunt: The CIA’s machinations created the world’s deadliest terrorists. To cut a long story short, Hillary Clinton, when she was US Secretary of State, accepted in an interview that America “funded Taliban and Al Qaida”.
West Asia is a victim of the oil and wealth lust of American imperialism. The majority of the victims of Islamist terrorists were Muslims. Pakistan lost close to 70,000 people due to terror strikes, including a former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to such an attack. Still, the American media coined the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ after the 9/11 attack, as if events unfolding in Afghanistan or Iraq or Egypt were unconnected with recent American history. The global media picked up the phrase uncritically. In India, the Muslim community saw a further dip in its social and economic capital. An outcome of American policies was that they added to the discrimination of this community around the world.
It is the responsibility of the media to unravel the truth, no matter how complex. Of course, there are excellent books on the topic, only if members of the godi media care to read them! Their task is to help a weak state rise above its crisis, not to play into the hands of divisive forces.
The author is a social activist and commentator. The views are personal.