Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday faced intense criticism on social media for suggesting that there were Malayali fighters among the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP made the comments in response to a video of purported Taliban fighters weeping with joy on reaching Kabul. “It sounds as if there are at least two Malayali Taliban here – one who says ‘samsarikkette’ around the 8-second mark & another who understands him!” Tharoor had said on Twitter.
The video was shared by a Twitter user named Ramiz, who claims in his bio to be interested in conflict journalism.
In response, Ramiz clarified that they were Baloch fighters from Zabul province of Afghanistan who were speaking Brahui. The Brahui language is a Dravidian language spoken in parts of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Tharoor termed it an “interesting explanation”, but said that there have indeed been Malayalis who joined the Taliban in the past.
Tharoor’s tweets prompted a backlash, with several Twitter users accusing him of making speculative statements and giving ammunition to hate campaigns against Kerala.
“This is highly problematic,” said journalist Korah Abraham on Twitter. “Making statements like this especially when the Right Wing eco system is going on a hate campaign against Kerala regarding people joining jihadist groups. And you being an MP from Kerala’s capital should be knowing better.”
Another Twitter user, Ralph Robert, urged Tharoor not to spread “conspiracy theories”.
The Congress MP subsequently shared an article by Mathrubhumi on the Taliban releasing several Malayalis from prison. One of those released was Nimisha Fathima, who had reportedly left India for Afghanistan in 2016 to join the Islamic State Group.
“I am sure all those who decried my tweet about the possibility of Malayalis in the Taliban will now notice the ones who were released from the government’s prisons today,” Tharoor remarked.
On August 15, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan after overthrowing the government headed by President Ashraf Ghani, who has reportedly fled to neighbouring Tajikistan.