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Munawwar Rana is a renowned poet. I have also been a fan of his poetry, but the way he has made poisonous statements in the past few years has shocked and frightened me. History has shown that when intellectuals fall into the trap of poisonous tirade, society suffers badly. Allama Iqbal, who was also a famous poet and was known as a symbol of Hindustan and Hindustaniyat, paved the way for the dream of India’s partition. Though Chowdhery Rahamat Ali of Cambridge University was the first one to raise the slogan of Pakistan, the people did not pay attention to it. It was Iqbal whose prophecy shattered Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindostan Hamara into two pieces. We are still suffering its consequences.

That is why when an MP, who calls himself the leader of Muslims, inadvertently compares the Taliban to India’s freedom fighters, or a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board praises the Taliban, I remember that in the past these seeds were sown and are now seen sprouting. Whatever the Taliban do in Afghanistan, it is true that such meaningless rhetoric can do the evil deed of opening the closed cracks of Indian society. This would give a chance to not only Muslims but also communal elements of other sections to flourish. This is not good for a country like India, which is surrounded by challenges.

The Taliban have created a quandary not only for India but for the entire world. Whatever they claim, we have to remember their past instead of being in any dilemma. As soon as the Taliban regime came to power in 1998, terrorists of many nationalities began to appear in Kashmir. The matter is not limited to this. An Indian plane was hijacked and taken to Kandahar on 24 December 1999. A lot happened in those tragic moments, which was eye-opening. The plane was parked on the airstrip of Kandahar for more than 150 hours. All of a sudden, some anonymous Taliban spokespersons appeared, giving ‘phone-ins’ to emerging private television channels in India. Who were those people? No doubt that it was a game conspired by the ISI, but we came to know this when our external affairs minister Jaswant Singh left for Kandahar on 31 December 1999 with terrorists who were handed over in exchange for the hostages.

Alas, the US and the rest of the West were still in a slumber. Their eyes were opened after the 9/11 attacks. At that time, the US had invaded Afghanistan to get rid of the devil in disguise. Today, the US has fled to escape from the same devil. And the Taliban are now more powerful and fearless than ever. In the days to come, Afghanistan can once again become the ‘epicentre of terrorism’. The explosions near Kabul airport on Thursday have proved another thing. The Taliban are not the only players in Afghanistan. This situation is even more frightening. If the Taliban were alone, they could be negotiated with. Now, it will take time to decide who we will have to engage with. Until then, will humanity continue to bathe in blood?

The time has come for the powerful countries of the West to abandon their apartheid-like attitude and take seriously the growing turmoil in Asia and Africa as the Taliban are not alone. Al-Qaeda and other groups have also expanded their activities. In remote African countries, al-Qaeda terrorists have been wreaking havoc, falling into step with local jihadi groups. On 19 August, 15 Mali soldiers were killed in an attack by these terrorists. In Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, France has been conducting Operation Barkhane since 1 August 2014, but to no avail. Significant loss of public money has been incurred. If, like the US, France also concedes defeat, won’t these countries end up facing the same fate as Afghanistan? It is important to note that in the name of jihad, these people have so far killed their own brethren more than the ‘infidels’. That is why when people like Munawwar Rana say that ‘we’ once ruled Afghanistan, one can only laugh. While saying this, such people easily forget the fact that those who wreaked havoc on their community were actually from their own community.

Because of such people, egalitarian societies and systems of governance all over the world are being forced to narrow their own paths. If you don’t believe this, compare the world before 9/11 and the world we have today and everything will be clear. The rules of air travel, hotels and even hospitals changed after that attack. In the name of a security check, today anyone can be stopped, for however long. As terrorism grows, so does the violation of personal freedom. This is against democratic values and the enticing concept of a ‘global village’. In such a situation, questions abound. Why is the world so helpless? Why is an organization like the UN not able to do anything meaningful? The UN must make meaningful efforts to stop not only the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, but also Russia’s bombing of Syria and Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. Experience has taught us that one event leads to another accident. Whether it is a terrorist incident or a counter-terrorist act, the maximum loss is to the common man every time. The process of this ‘chain reaction’ must be stopped, but how can this be done?

The time has come for powerful countries to forget their differences and deal with these terror forces together. Struggling with one of the worst pandemics in history, the world is no longer in a position to withstand attacks like 9/11 or 26/11.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal. 

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