05 August, 2021

The Mullah's Monologue With The Buddha

Harinder Baweja, one of two Indian journalists and the only media woman to have met the Taliban, recounts her tryst with the student militia after the fall of Kabul in 1996

The Mullah's Monologue With The Buddha
It was no place for a woman; much less for an Indian. Brandishing weapons, the Taliban were racing into the capital of Afghanistan in tanks and Toyota Hilux trucks laden with ammunition. The night of September 26, 1996, was their heady moment. A moment when they had stormed into the Presidential Palace in Kabul and established their hold over the country.

Sensing the advent of the Taliban, the staff at the Indian embassy had upped and left and just then—when former pro-Soviet president Najibullah's body was hanging from an electric pole—I was working my way into Afghanistan. It was one of my most claustrophobic assignments—the burqa lying right on top of other long-sleeved garments that had been especially packed for the trip—but a fascinating one. It was the only time the Taliban allowed Indian journalists in, perhaps because they were heady with success. Perhaps, to show that the Northern Alliance which had stamped our Afghan visas in Delhi had been driven out, past the Panjshir Valley, to the north of Kabul.

The Taliban had come a long way from the madrassas...

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