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Why India Should Be Worried Of The Growing Influence Of Taliban In Afghanistan

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By Kushan Niyogi

On 22 June, the terrorist organisation Taliban carried out an offensive in various districts of Afghanistan. As of the present day, a pulsating number of 40 districts have already been acquired, and the expansion only seems to be sooner rather than later. The sudden resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has now become the cause of concern for most of its neighbours.

With resources thinning down by the day owing to the pandemic, the consequent expansion of the Taliban further into the Afghan territory only makes the situation more worrisome.

India has a lot to worry about if this emergence is followed by a consequent growth in the number of sleeper cells. Both the countries of Pakistan and India have found themselves on the backfoot, and maybe it is time to work together to fight against terror in unison.

What Is Happening In Afghanistan?

If you have been following the Global section of your newspapers, then it should not come as a surprise to learn of the Taliban’s intermittent rise in Afghanistan.

For the past couple of months, the Afghan government has found itself on the backfoot with little hope of finding redemption. This has sent shivers down the spine of the entirety of the globalised world.

From Washington to Delhi, the governments have been trying to come up with a formidable solution to the militant problem in Afghanistan. However, with America’s demilitarisation of Afghanistan after decades of occupation, the military scenario ironically looks bleaker than ever.

The Taliban presence in Afghanistan has become a constant sense of worry for the international community and the possibility of them heading a legitimate government is harrowing, to say the least.

The Afghan administration, alongside its armed forces on numerous instances, has projected their inefficiency when it comes to tackling the militant insurgence inside the country. The recent selfie of a Taliban insurgent posing in front of the city gates of Mazar-i-Sharif is the one piece of media that has become the paramount cause of fear among the global populace.

In the past 20 years, the Taliban, which has predominantly operated in and around the limits of northern Afghanistan, had last been at the city gates of the hub in 2001. What makes the insurrection as frightening is that these city gates lead to the main city hub in the northern Afghan prefectures.

All that remains of Mazar-i-Sharif’s massacre from 2001.

The Fall Of Mazar-i-Sharif in 2001 marked a significant turning point in Afghanistan’s role as a sovereign nation, as the Afghan forces supported by the occupying American forces ousted the Taliban regime from their base of operations.

However, with the American forces withdrawing from Afghan soil after almost four decades, the Taliban forces have gained incredible ground. To put matters into perspective, the Taliban now control major districts encircling the main cities and district centres. Among the district centres, the Taliban control 81 of them as opposed to the total of 419.

U.S. Intelligence has warned of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, falling to the Mujahideen within 6 to 12 months of the American Army’s departure from Afghan soil.

Why Should India Be Worried?

The Indian authorities have already begun taking guard and being on the defensive, which should be evidence enough to the terror the Taliban insurgency has caused.

The scenario is only turning bleaker by the day as it has been enough to compel the Indian administration to switch its stance on engaging with the Taliban.

Earlier in June, it was reported that an Indian envoy led by Jaishankar had gone to meet the Taliban top man, Mullah Baradar, one of the founding members of the Afghan Taliban, in Doha. The secret meeting was not disclosed until recently by Qatar’s Special Envoy, Mutlaq Bin Majed Al Qahtani.

The Qatari envoy led by Qahtani provided the first insight into India’s apparent dialogue held with the Taliban founder.

The entire scenario of Taliban proliferating into the heart of Afghanistan was, in essence, brought about by the American administration’s incessant need to maintain “cordial” relations with the parties. Their inherent want to not have history hold them responsible for any form of political degradation in the region led to an aggressive demand for peace.

Rather than demand, these were but a form of extortion. The administration demanded the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and advertised the Taliban as “changed” and “new”. The perceived image of the Taliban was then force-fed to every other country in its immediate vicinity.

However, the entire prospect of having a fascist regime sit amid a democratic sovereign nation such as Afghanistan would never sit right with the Afghan administration. According to the anti-Taliban Afghan coalition, the preferred method to tackle the situation is to take arms and fight the fundamentalist’s tooth and nail.

American troops finally exit but at what cost?

The cause of concern for India in this scenario is its succeeding cause in the near future. The unlikely but probable rise of the Taliban within the Afghan administration, becoming the sole proprietor of the Afghan government, may spell trouble for the Indian administration.

On the other hand, if the Taliban successfully infiltrates Kabul and the other major cities even for a few months, it may be an enormous cause of concern for the Indian administration.

In all fairness, India has been provided with two choices on the table. We can either accept the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, sit back like Britain and Iran, or actively proliferate the cause of a democratic Afghanistan. Nobody can be sure of what the Taliban may have under their sleeves once they rise to power, and the road will only get murkier still.

It is only fair now, more than ever, that India and Pakistan forget their differences, if only momentarily. Some insurgencies are meant to be quelled.

Note: The article was originally published here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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