By: Amjad Khan Afridi
Culture is an integral part of human societies as is a shared aspect of human civilizations. However, each human group has its distinct culture and cultural traits that are deep rooted in its civilization and history. The region of South Asia that constitutes Indian Subcontinent today has rich culture, history and civilization. Afghanistan, India and Pakistan in modern days, had been the cradle of great civilizations that shaped up the existing socio-cultural, religious and civilizational construct of these societies. India, being the largest country in South Asia has constantly been striving to influence things around it. Afghanistan being a ‘strategic partner’ of India is complaining today of India’s cultural battle of Panipat.
Panipat is a small town located now in Haryana state of India and is famous for its textile industries. Many battles are reported in Indian history to be fought here. One such battle is known as the third battle of Panipat, fought on 14 January 1761 in which the ruler of Afghans, Ahmad Shah Abdali defeated the confederated kings of Marahatas who fought under the united banner of Sadashiv Rao Baji Rai. Ahmad Shah Abdali was also known as Durrani which was his tribal identity; his tribe being Durrani. The third battle of Panipat is held significant in the annals of Indian history as it checked the rise of Marathas in India and again provided an opportunity to Muslims to continue their rule in India. The attraction that the Hindu or Maratha historians and fiction writers find in the Panipat battle is the heroic deeds that were reported by Maratha historians. Indian (Bollywood) movie makers took a fascinating plot for their movie Panipat and released the trailer of the movie recently.
Panipat movie is no doubt a high-cost movie, however, what put Afghan viewers at unease is the treatment of their hero Ahmad Shah Abdali commonly known in India as Abdali Baba. In the movie, an aged 60 years old actor with a wild and uncut facial expressions and Ahmad Shah Abdali’s stature act as an Afghan hero. But the fact is that the Pashtun King who defeated Marhatahs in the third battle of Panipat was not that much rough, dirty and aged as is being depicted in Panipat. Ahmad Shah Abdali was born in 1722 and died in 1772 – merely completing his 50 years. But in the movie, facts are shown vice versa. Abdali is a national hero of Afghan masses and is presented to the world as pride of Afghan land. Being a Pushtoon Durrani king, Abdali is equally revered by all and sundry in Afghanistan as a proud hero. Ahmad Shah Abdali, in nutshell, represents Afghan valor in its all shades. The movie Panipat smashes all the perceptions of Afghan pride and presents Ahmad Shah Abdali as a wild and blood thirsty militant leader who invades India and gives a blood bath to peaceful and prosperous Hindu Maratha society. The image which the Panipat movie builds about Ahmad Shah Abdali negates and insults the pride in which the Afghans hold him in.
The problem with India’s film industry writers and movie makers is their ignorance of historical facts about a historic personality on whose life they plan to make a movie. At times, that ignorance is replaced with Hindutva bias when it comes to filming a Muslim historic personality, say a king. The Hindutva mindset is further amplified when a sense of regional superiority is added to it. The resultant product is unbridled, unstoppable and uncontrollable monster that crushes and trumpets any logic, reason or value under its feet. The recent case of Panipat movie exhibits naked Indian cultural assault on Afghanistan. The movie explains India’s cultural battle of Panipat in which the victim is none less than the Afghan culture and Afghan identity.
Amjad Khan Afridi is a writer, blogger and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.