The False Equivalence Between CAA's Eventual Beneficiaries And Refugees From Taliban’s Afghanistan

Tushar Gupta

Aug 16, 2021, 02:45 PM | Updated 02:45 PM IST

If the locals are supporting the Taliban, what good can the intervention of any government bring?
If the locals are supporting the Taliban, what good can the intervention of any government bring?
  • Emotional generosity in the hour of crisis, as some in India are advocating right now, does not address the root crisis — radicalisation of Afghan society.
  • As Taliban cements its takeover of Afghanistan, in India, a false equivalence is being drawn between the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), with some advocating that the government must allow all refugees from Afghanistan, including the Muslims who were not included within the CAA, on humanitarian grounds.

    However, the political and social realities on the ground are far more intricate and detached from the necessities of the CAA.

    Not Kabul, but Kandahar is the city that one can attribute to the beginnings of Taliban 1.0. They rose to political prominence only after the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1988. Taliban, the plural word for ‘religious students’ (talib means religious student), as a group, can attribute its origins to the guerilla warfare tactics and other socio-economic changes that were consequently ushered during the Soviet-Afghan war.

    The war had men, also known as the mujahideens, in groups as small as 10 and as large as 50-odd operating around their villages. The commander of these groups who would later go on to become the representatives of Taliban, by choice or by force, came from the local villages. However, the participation in the war extended beyond the tribal leaders, as religious leaders became more involved in the politics of the state.

    These religious leaders, known as mullahs, would later go on to become the founding members of the Taliban. Eventually, in 1988, the Soviets did to Afghanistan what President Joe Biden did a few weeks ago, quietly acknowledging defeat. However, unlike the government installed by the US, the one by the Soviets survived, at least around the city of Kabul, until the early 1990s.

    By 1994, worried by the plaguing anarchy in the country amongst warring factions led by different tribal leaders, the mullahs gathered outside Kandahar and issued the first decree that would serve as the basis for Taliban 1.0.

    To be ruled strictly according to the guiding principles of Islam, the religious leaders aimed to remove the leaders of the warring groups inconsistent with the pursuits of the Taliban, to have a single centralised form of government consistent with teachings of the Quran, and to ensure the nation’s sovereignty in the face of Western invasions.

    As was the scenario back in the 1990s, even in their war against the soldiers of the United States, the Taliban came together to represent something more than a group of rogue mercenaries in a nation wrecked by war.

    As happened to the government installed by the Americans, and the Soviets before them, and even the British, the Afghani forces aligned with foreign powers could never command the loyalty of the locals, and eventually, would fall. They were perceived as corrupt when viewed from the lens of Islam, and that is what may explain the popular support Taliban has been getting from the locals, as evident by the few viral clips on Twitter.

    Simply put, for the sake of their Islamic Afghan identity, the tribals and Taliban have always been more willing to kill or be killed than the soldiers and loyalists of the government or foreign forces themselves. However, this is not a reflection of the efforts or the bravery of the latter, but more of the religious fanaticism that prevails in that part of the world.

    Certain characteristics of the Taliban movement are also consistent with the teachings of the Quran, thus further strengthening their support. For one, the jihad against what Islam describes as infidels or non-believers. While we assume the term to only represent radical terrorism, for the Taliban, it amounts to driving out foreign forces and anyone who chooses to live a life inconsistent with the principles of Islam.

    For instance, when in 2001, the Taliban blew to smithereens the Bamiyan Buddhist statues, it was not an act of conquering alone, but of imposing the Islamic way of life. The same virtue explains the routine persecution of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, or any other minority groups, and the people have accepted it.

    Within the same socio-religious framework whose moral authority stems from the mullahs leading the Taliban, the oppression of women and children is the norm. For Pashtuns, the largest community within the country, this treatment had become acceptable and they rejected the Western progressive notions, stating how they were inconsistent with Islam as documented by numerous observers in the last 20 years.

    However, an uncomfortable question is warranted here. Is the treatment of women a geographical problem, unique and rooted in Afghanistan, or is it something that is prevalent across the countries in the Middle East as well, and if so, an elaborate debate is warranted that is not constrained to the visuals from Afghanistan or Syria.

    While the West and other democracies, rightfully so, may view the lack of liberalism in the nation with horror and shock, for the Afghans, prospects of progressive liberalism were as good as violent colonisation.

    This brings us back to the question of the CAA, which some want to use as a political stimulus to address the strategic deficit of the United States.

    Emotional generosity in the hour of crisis, as some in India are advocating right now, does not address the root crisis — radicalisation in the society of Afghanistan, cheered on by the local population.

    If the locals are supporting the Taliban, what good can the intervention of any government bring?

    If India were to indeed extend asylum to Afghan refugees in general, why not begin with notifying the CAA, and extending the right to return to Hindus, Sikhs, and other communities indigenous to India anywhere in the world and not only Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan.

    CAA is about persecution of minorities, not aiding countries or their refugees busy self-imploding in the name of religion nor can India be held responsible for cleaning up the mess left by the United States.

    It’s damning, but sadly, it is true.

    Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_

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