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HomeIndiaTaliban Govt invokes Ahmed Shah Abdali, names new military unit ‘Panipat’

Taliban Govt invokes Ahmed Shah Abdali, names new military unit ‘Panipat’

Kabul's Aamaj News reported Friday that Taliban govt had named the unit in Nangarhar province after Third Battle of Panipat, which Afghan rule Ahmad Shah Abdali won against Marathas.

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New Delhi: That the same word, or reference could imply different things to different people was highlighted by the Taliban when it announced the inauguration of its new military unit in the country’s Nangarhar province — the Panipat operational unit.

The name draws inspiration from a famous historical battle that was fought in the 18th century and saw the Maratha army being defeated by the forces of an Afghan ruler.

The Kabul-based media website Aamaj News reported Friday that the unit was named after the Third Battle of Panipat, fought between the Maratha Empire and the invading Afghan army of Ahmad Shah Abdali (and his Indian allies) in 1761. Abdali had won the battle, and it is estimated that 60,000–70,00 people were killed in the fighting, while many were taken prisoners.

In India though, many still talk of the valour displayed by the Maratha soldiers in the battle. It had also inspired the Bollywood period drama, Panipat, in 2019, which dwelled heavily on the valour of the brave Marathas and did a great job of churning nationalist sentiments.

The film, however, prompted a letter from the Afghanistan embassy expressing concerns to New Delhi over how a distorted depiction of the Afghan ruler might hurt the sentiments of people in Afghanistan. Panipat had also drawn ire from Jats in Rajasthan, causing theatres in Jaipur to stop screening the film.

Now the naming of a new military unit as ‘Panipat’ by the Talibans could be seen as a “clear sign” to Hindus in India, more so as it comes two days after Taliban’s Deputy spokesperson Inamullah Samangani voiced support for Muslim girls in Karnataka, engaged in a legal battle with their educational institution for the right of wearing a hijab in classrooms.

“Indian Muslim girls struggle for Hijab shows that Hijab is not an Arab, Iranian, Egyptian or Pakistani culture, but an Islamic value for which Muslim girls around the world, especially in the secular world, sacrifice with different types and defend their religious value,” Samangani had said in a tweet.

The US also criticised the hijab ban in Karnataka Saturday, to which India replied that it is an internal matter.

India-Afghan relations post Taliban

The name of the new unit has also sparked social media interest.

A Twitter user by the name Islam Paal, who identifies as a “proud” citizen under the Taliban regime, said the new Panipat military unit by saying it is a “clear sign” to Hindus.

“Hindus should take this as a clear sign. We haven’t forgotten our ancestors. Muskan sister, we hear your cries (sic),” he said.

Muskan Khan, a 19-year-old student from Karnataka’s Mandya Pre-University (PU), has become one of the major faces of the ongoing hijab row, after a video of her standing up to alleged hecklers in saffron shawls went viral.

Ever since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last August, New Delhi and Kabul have shared ups and downs in relations.

In October last year, Taliban leader Anas Haqqani visited the tomb of Turkish ruler Mahmud Ghaznavi in Afghanistan and referred to him as a “Muslim warrior” who “smashed the idol of Somnath”.

Mahmud was the first emperor of the Ghaznavid dynasty (977–1186 AD), who ruled over large parts of Iran, Afghanistan and areas that are part of northwest India today. He invaded Indian territories multiple times and had famously attacked the iconic Somnath Temple in Gujarat and destroyed the idol.

India continues to send aid to the war-torn country, albeit at much lower levels than it did before the Taliban captured power. Last December, when India has sent its first consignment of humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, Taliban thanked New Delhi and said the process “will continue”.


Also read: Baloch grievances need political action. History shows insurgency can’t be killed with force


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