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They are coming, the Taliban

The rapid increase in cadres and influence of the Taliban should be a matter of serious concern to everybody, particularly to us Indians, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2007 03:33 IST

The rapid increase in cadres and influence of the Taliban should be a matter of serious concern to everybody, particularly to us Indians. We have the third largest Muslim population in the world.

The Taliban regards India as a kind of Kafiristan, the land of infidels because the vast majority of us are non-Muslims.

For them to wage war against us is religious obligation (Jehad), being killed in that war is Shahadat martyrdom. Their main bases are Afghanistan and the north-western part of Pakistan. The Pakistan government is fighting a losing war against them. It has already lost large areas to them, its soldiers are reluctant to fight their own countrymen and desertions on alarming scale are reported.

Pakistan is a nuclear power and has a stockpile of nuclear bombs. The United States is alarmed at the prospect of Taliban getting hold of these deadly weapons of mass destruction and is helping the Pakistan government to guard against that eventuality.

It is ironical that it was the United States and Pakistan that between them created this hydra-headed Frankenstein monster.

The Taliban are a neo-fundamentalist movement recruited from students (Talibs) of mosque schools and madrasas. It was organised into a military force by Americans and Pakistanis which liberated Afghanistan from Soviet occupation. The movement was led by Mulla Mohammad Omar. It ruled Afghanistan for four years. It was recognised only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Emirates; the United Nations turned down its application for membership for its discriminatory treatment of women. It introduced medieval rules of justice.

Conversion from Islam, to any religion was punishable with death; women caught in adultery were stoned to death, for petty crimes like theft hands were chopped off; girls schools were closed down; woman denied jobs and put in burqas. If you want to read a graphic description of the havoc caused by the Taliban, read the Afghan writer Khalid Hosseini's two novels: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Why should we be alarmed by the Taliban? It is they who infiltrate into our part of Kashmir and cause mayhem and murder; it is they who explode bombs in our temples, mosques, dargahs and market places. They are trained killers and highly motivated. If they could bomb New York’s Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington, they will find softer targets in India. More than anything else, their nefarious activities give sustenance to our religious fanatics of the RSS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP. We are caught between the two arms of a nut-cracker.

Experiment to prosper
About 10 years ago, I happened to be in Bangalore. I have many friends there. Amongst the closest is Nirmala Mathan who I befriended during my long stint in Bombay. Together we explored many little known temples in the city. Among the purchases I made was basketful of avocado pears to bring home to Delhi. I am passionately fond of avocados, which cost a bomb in Delhi as they are flown in from Bangalore.

I introduced them to Nirmala’s cuisine. She had me plant one in her home in Langford street, Richmond Gardens. A fortnight ago she sent me six of the first crop of the tree. They were the largest in size and the best-tasting avocados, I had eaten anywhere in Europe, America or Mexico where they originated and are an integral pat of Mexican diet.

I have a hunch avocados can be the answer to India’s quest for wholesome food.

I keep forcing avocado seeds (they are the size of Golf balls) on friends who own land or have garden space. We also have to cultivate a taste for them because they taste bland like butter.

There are dozens of ways they can be eaten as salad, made into cream flavoured with olive oil and vinegar, mashed with potatoes etc. They can be grown just about everywhere in our country.

Seth BD Goenka had a tree in his garden in Bangalore but never ate one. BK Birla had one in his palatial bungalow in Calcutta, but no member of the family or staff knew the fruit was edible.

Dr Dhanda gets a crop of 200 from one tree in her compound in Sundernagar, Delhi.

I feel our agricultural universities could take up project of avocados in a big way and induce farmers to cultivate them. The avocado could become the poor man's diet. It is easy to grow and is highly nutritious.

We don't experiment enough. A few years ago not many Indians knew about Kiwi fruit because it was imported from New Zealand. Now it is grown in Himachal and has a ready market. We haven't really tried to grow Olives or Macadamia nuts.

I am pretty certain we can grow both if we tried. Emperor Babar was right when he complained about the poor quality of Indian fruit our melons, grapes, pomegranates don't compare with those grown in Afghanistan.

Now we can get sweet melons of Japanese variety. Our dates are barely edible. we get them from the Middle East. Australia grows as good dates as any grown in Basra or Baghdad. Why can't we do the same? There is money in experimenting and succeeding.

Two-piece covering
My friend has never approved of scantily clad young women, and so it was with trepidation that he watched as his youngest daughter, an aspiring candidate in a beauty contest modelled her first bikini. “Look Daddy,” she said, “I bought this with the birthday money you and mom gave me.”

My friend stared, glared and then snapped, “We didn't give you much, did we?”
(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)