Book Excerpt (Spotlight) Of How I Became a Taliban Assassin & The Murder That Wasn’t:Two Novellas By Rajesh Talwar
About Author Rajesh Talwar
Rajesh Talwar has written on a variety of themes ranging from social justice to law and culture for international and national magazines, newspapers, and websites including The Guardian, The Economic Times, the Pioneer, and Sunday Observer.
About The Book How I Became a Taliban Assassin
A lawyer and the best-selling author of ‘Courting Injustice: The Nirbhaya Case and Its Aftermath‘, Rajesh Talwar, comes out with two novellas that, while being very different, bring to light two very urgent and serious issues of war and justice.
A tale of inequity and injustice How I Became a Taliban Assassin & The Murder That Wasn’t: Two Novellas (Bridging Borders)conveys the horrors of war and explains why ordinary Afghans joined the Taliban.
How I Became a Taliban Assassin explores it in the context of the war in Afghanistan whereas The Murder that Wasn’t, the second novella focuses on the criminal justice system in India.
Talwar know for his non-fiction work that ranges from books on legal literacy and human rights to those on sacred feminine and world culture. His most notable books in this category are The Judiciary on Trial and The Third Sex and Human.
Excerpt (Spotlight) OF The Book
How i became a Taliban assassin and The Murder That Wasn’t by Rajesh Talwar (BridgingBorders Publication)
How i became a Taliban assassin
Aloka was waiting for me in her cabin. I had not been expecting to see someone so attractive. Barry and I would sometimes joke about how development workers were somehow not so strong in the looks department. This was clearly not the case with her. After weeks spent in Afghanistan, seeing for the most part only blue and black burkha-clad female bodies, the charms of Aloka’s sharp features, smooth skin and full lips were not lost on me. Instantly I felt guilty, remembering the reason for my visit. Recovering myself, I tried to ignore the ripeness of her youthful frame, which her plain salwar kameez could not hide.
Files and papers were scattered all over her small desk, and she looked overwrought. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was tea and samosas waiting for me.
‘I’ve been missing these,’ I said, as I dipped a samosa into some mint chutney.
‘I’ve taught the local cook here how to make these,’ said Aloka. She examined my face without any inhibition, as if searching for something. ‘You look Indian and from your name and looks I would judge you to be a Sikh, but your accent is foreign. British?’
‘Guilty as charged,’ I said. ‘I was born in England and therefore the accent, but my Dadaji came from a village in the Punjab.’
‘I hope you didn’t have a problem finding this place,’ said Aloka pleasantly. A soft smile momentarily lit up her face and disappeared as soon as it had come.
‘Not at all,’ I said, sipping the tea gratefully. ‘As a matter of fact, you’re well known in Kandahar. My taxi driver knows you.’
‘Oh, it’s a small town in comparison to Kabul, you know,’ said Aloka modestly. ‘Now, what is it that you wanted to know?’
‘I’m doing a report on the reasons why we aren’t making much progress here,’ I said. ‘Much of it focuses on corruption, but I thought I should write something about how we aren’t winning any hearts and minds.’
‘You’re talking about last month’s massacre, aren’t you?’ Her expression turned bitter and angry. ‘It was terrible.’
‘They were supposed to be attacking the Taliban, I heard.’
‘There were no Taliban in the village,’ said Aloka in a slow and serious voice, as if she were performing in a play. ‘It’s a village close to the town of Ghilzai, a hundred kilometres or so north of Kandahar.’
I was silent.
‘I repeat, there were no Taliban in the area,’ Aloka said in the same dramatic tone of voice. ‘Anyone even remotely familiar with the region would laugh at such a report. Muntozai and the Taliban. They just don’t match.’ She shook her head in disbelief. ‘Munotzai is a large village in the south that is relatively modern – everyone knows about it. Around three months ago, as a result of a tip-off from someone, no one knows who exactly, the Americans launched a ground offensive against the area. They went through the village firing indiscriminately, because the villagers were all supposed to be Taliban, you see. There was this large qala in the area – one of the few prominent buildings – and the Americans were convinced it was a local Taliban headquarters. Actually, it was a very large family that lived in the building, some 30 people or more – you know how large Afghan families can be. First, they blew apart the main gate to the qala with a grenade, and then they shouted for everyone to come out and surrender. An Afghan came out holding a Kalashnikov and seeing him the Americans were doubly sure that the building was full of Taliban. The special forces opened up with rapid and indiscriminate fire, killing dozens of civilians, including women and children.’
I said, ‘This man who came out with a Kalashnikov …’
‘The qala was blown apart,’ said Aloka, interrupting me. ‘Who wouldn’t come out with a weapon under such circumstances? Just think how little provocation it takes for an American farmer to come out of his house with a shotgun. If someone were trespassing on his property, it would be enough to provoke him.’
I nodded my head. ‘That’s horrible.’
‘It was terribly ironic, the whole thing,’ said Aloka. ‘You see, these people were totally opposed to the Taliban. During the course of my interview with the survivors, I learnt that they all thought it was an attack by the Taliban, their enemy.’
‘Didn’t you say the Americans made an announcement, asking the people to come out?’
‘They did,’ admitted Aloka, ‘but without explaining anything very clearly. The elderly patriarch I spoke to, who was one of two survivors in this grisly episode, said that when the villagers heard the interpreter peaking with a Kandahari accent, they were even more convinced it was the Taliban. “We’re prepared to die,” said the patriarch. “What we can’t stand is being humiliated.”’
What was humiliation for someone so proud, almost ridiculously proud, like the Pashtun? I thought, for by now I’d met enough Pashtuns to know how fearful they were of any imputed slight. Everything was a humiliation. Even behaviour thought of as casual and friendly in a Western context might be perceived by Pashtuns as a direct insult.