The return of the Taliban in Afghanistan continues to dominate geopolitics of the world. And why not. A superpower has eased the way for a fanatic, bigoted and medieval mentality grouping in a strategically important nation surrounded by communist States such as Russia and China and hardliner religious countries Pakistan and Iran. Afghanistan’s proximity to these countries is also a cause of concern for nations across the globe.
Since Afghanistan has always been an important region for India, the commotion here is understandable. While some are seeing Afghanistan as a matter of foreign policy, some other groups are using Kabul’s new reality to harvest their own political gains.
Ashraaf and their proximity to Taliban thought
Statements by Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq, poet Munawwar Rana, and Muslim Personal Law Board spokesperson Maulana Sajjad Nomani, among others, have glorified the Taliban. These persons, who claim to make such statements as representatives of all Indian Muslims, come from the ruling section of Muslim society — the Ashraaf, who constitute only one-tenth of the total Muslim population in India. And these statements are not being made out of raw emotions, or without any serious thought. Their direct purpose is to further provoke the trend of Muslim communalism, which would ultimately help the Ashraaf strengthen their hold on the power structures and supremacy, even as the indigenous Pasmanda Muslims (Muslim-faith Adivasi, Dalits, and Backwards) continue to pay the price with their blood in communal riots and mob lynchings.
History tells us that the strongest voice opposing the so-called two-nation theory and Muslim communalism has been that of the indigenous Pasmanda Muslims under the leadership of Asim Bihari. They remained steadfast against the Partition till the very end. Carrying on with this proud and glorified tradition, various Pasmanda organisations and their activists spread across India are using social media to strongly refute the statements glorifying the Taliban, made by persons belonging to the Ashraaf community. They are also condemning communal, feudalist, patriarchal and medieval mindset of the Taliban.
If we look at the organisational structure of the Taliban, we will find that its racial and ethnic composition is dominated by the Pathans, persons belonging to the Pashtun tribe, who consider other tribes settled in Afghanistan, such as Hazra, Tajik, Aimak, Turkman, Baloch, Nuristani, Uzbek among others, to be inferior. In their eyes, Afghanistan is ‘Pathanistan’. This is why the Taliban does not enjoy support of Afghanistan’s entire population and anti-Taliban organisations in North Afghanistan, where the population of Pathans is less, have started to rise in opposition. The Vice-President of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, who is not a Pathan, has himself refused to bow down to the Taliban.
The Deobandi thought—where it all comes from
In India, confusion surrounding the Deobandi ideology’s link with the Taliban prevails and Darul Uloom — the centre of Islamic seminary located in Deoband town of Saharanpur district — and its thought have come under scrutiny.
As far as ideological orientation is concerned, one should not have any qualms about the fact that the Taliban are indeed fanatic followers of Deobandi school of thought.
According to the laws/edicts of Islamic Shariah, there are several different interpretations of Islam, including the Deobandi ideology (Sunni Hanafi), which remains the most dominant Islamic thought in the entire Indian Subcontinent. The Barelvi ideology, which has some key spiritual differences vis a vis the Deobandi thought, also agrees with the latter when it comes to maters of governance and administration.
In India, the Deobandi school of thought is believed to have come from from Shah Waliullah. The famous ‘jihad’ carried out against the Sikh regime of Ranjit Singh — taught in history books as the Wahabi movement— under the leadership of Syed Ahmed Barelvi and Shah Waliullah’s grandson Shah Ismail was the starting point for the Deobandi movement. After making some territorial gains during the first phase of this ‘jihad’, Syed Ahmed declared himself as the Caliph and assumed the title of Amirul Mominen (the ruler of all Islamic faithful). But shortly after, this ‘jihad’ came to an abrupt end when Sikh soldiers killed and eliminated the leadership of the duo in the Battle of Balakot. Later, to keep this ideology alive, an educational institution in the form of an Islamic seminary was established in UP’s Deoband. It was not merely an educational institution. In the backdrop of defeat and decline of the Mughal rulers, it was a tool for the ruling class (Ashraaf) to preserve and maintain the power of the Muslims and the Arabic/Iranian culture and civilisation.
It is Darul Uloom from where a religious-social movement emerged in the form of Tablighi Jamaat, which gradually spread as a global organisation of Deobandi fundamentalism all over the world. A political movement, in the name of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, also emerged from Darul Uloom, which unsuccessfully tried to establish first independent Indian government in Kabul by declaring Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh as India’s head of State. Later, this organisation split into two factions and one section got involved in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. The prominent names in this faction were Maulana Shabbir Usmani, Mufti Shafi Usmani and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. Simultaneously, the other faction, under the leadership of Maulana Hussain Ahmed, started to oppose the demands for Partition. However, the irony is that even today the Deobandi Ulema (whose names are mentioned above and who paved the way for creation of Pakistan) continue to remain icons for today’s Indian Deobandis. Books and cassettes related to them are easily available in India.
The Taliban are the people of the Pathan caste, who were brought up and indoctrinated in some of these Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan and whose ideology resonates with that of a fanatic Deobandi. Since Afghanistan is an open game for all, this movement is using it to create an Islamic State with Deobandi ideology through Jihad and bloodshed. The same project is going on in Pakistan in the name of jamhooriyat (democracy). In India, the Ashraaf Muslims have preserved and maintained their authority and Arabic/Iranian culture and civilisation by pressurising the government through institutions such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Muslim Personal Law Board, and Waqf Board, among others. These institutions have nothing to do with the day-to-day lives of the deprived indigenous Pasmanda Muslims.
The Darul Uloom Deoband and the Taliban may not have a direct link but their ideological and historical linkages cannot be ruled out.
Saudi Arabia is the home State for Wahhabi fundamentalist ideology, Iran is the State dominated by the Shia radical Islamic revolutionist and, now, Afghanistan, a State completely under the influence of Deobandi fundamentalist ideology. Its major strategic and political implications for the entire region cannot be ruled out. For India, it would be in its national interest to keep a strict vigil on the growth and flourishing status of all these three types of fundamentalist ideologies within the country.
Fayaz Ahmad Fyzie @FayazAhmadFyzie is a columnist and social worker, and physician by profession. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)