Afghanistan evacuee Tamal Bhattacharya has been under the spotlight ever since he made pro-Taliban remarks after returning to India. A slew of petitions and complaints have been filed against him, the latest one being registered with the West Bengal Ministry of Home Affairs.
On August 31, petitioner Raj Chowdhury had filed a complaint (GOVWB/E/2021/01466) against Tamal Bhattacharya with the Government of West Bengal. His grievance was accepted and forwarded to the Joint Secretary of the State Ministry of Home Affairs, Ajay Kumar Pal.
Raj Chowdhury had earlier filed a petition with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. After having found Tamal Bhattacharya’s picture with the Talibs, he had also lodged another petition with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Tamal, who was successfully rescued by the Indian government from his perilous state on August 21, heaped praise upon the Taliban after reaching home. On August 29, a complaint was filed with the Principal Secretary of West Bengal against the Afghanistan evacuee by a BJP member from Kolkata named Suraj Singh.
Tamal Bhattachearya has a ‘change of heart’, cites apology after public outrage
While speaking to Banga Bhumi about the petition filed with the Greivance cell of the Union Home Ministry, Tamal said, “I want to apologise if my speech and remarks hurt anyone’s feelings.” While taking a U-turn from his earlier statement about Taliban, he claimed that he was lucky to be spared by the ‘extremist group’. His sudden ‘change of heart’ was followed by praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, EAM S Jaishankar and the Indian Air Force (IAF).
“When a Taliban ‘Bhai’ asked us to play cricket and said that we have to play all kinds of games, I did not have the courage to say no. These groups are vengeful and could kill you if you say no to them,” claimed Tamal. He alleged that he was under stress and fear of death, given the Taliban’s violent past record. Tamal also claimed that he has been developing symptoms of PTSD (post-Traumatic stress disorder) and urged people to consider the ‘circumstances’ which forced him to play cricket with the Talibs.
In his defense, Tamal claimed that supporting ‘terrorist outfits’ is not in the DNA of Indians who grew up in the world’s largest democracy. He stressed how Indians believe in peaceful resolution of conlfict and not at gun point. He claimed to be quoted out of context and has been ‘falesly’ labelled as a ‘Taliban sympathiser.’ Tamal Bhattacharya went on to say that as a disciple of Ramakrishna Mission, he was bound to speak the truth about what transpired in Afghanistan. In a bid to whitewash his earlier statements about Taliban, Tamal claimed that he did not speak ‘ill’ of the radical Islamist orgnaisation to ensure the safety of other Indians stranded in Afghanistan.
“Don’t be hostile to me. I am an Indian who just returned home from Afghanistan. I am having symptoms of PTSD. I sometimes feel that I am still hearing the gunfire in Afghanistan…Please support us so that we can recover from this trauma as soon as possible…I am not your enemy,” he pleaded. Tamal went on to clarify that the Talibs ‘helped’ the stranded Indians out of self-interest and international recognition. “A terrorist organisation will not become good just because they helped us. It was in their interest,” he added.
Although Tamal had earlier hailed Sharia law for lack of deceit in ‘naam kababs’, he changed his statement to claim that the ‘ideology’ of the Taliban wasbad. He had also appealed to everyone to keep aside political differences and stand by the side of the Indian government. Lastly, on being asked whether his foreign travel plans (Opindia had earlier reported how sources claimed about his plans to flee India) would be marred by the current petitions, Tamal expressed hope that the Indian government would stand by him.
The case of Tamal Bhattacharya
Tamal, a 34-year-old resident of Nimta in the North Dum Dum area, was stranded in Afghanistan ever since the Taliban took control of the country on August 15-16. He had been working as a physics and chemistry teacher at an army school (Kardan International school) in Kabul since March this year. A mechanical engineer by training, Tamal was living in the staff quarters of his school. However, after the Taliban took over the city of Kabul, he was forced to lock himself up inside the principal’s residence.
He alleged to have contacted the Indian embassy and couldn’t reach the Hamid Karzai International airport despite several attempts. Later, he claimed to have reached the airport gate at 11 pm on August 20, only to be returned by the US security forces due to the absence of government officials and documents. He added that Talibs were surrounding the airport and had to spend the night in a nearby wedding hall. While speaking to Anandabazaar Patrika, he said, “Please inform PM Modi and Amit Shah so that immediate action is taken for our evacuation”
Eventually, Tamal was evacuated by an Indian Air Force (IAF) carrier along with 10 other Bengali residents. He boarded the flight late on August 21 night and reached the National capital on August 22 morning. On the same day, he returned to Kolkata via a flight from New Delhi. Tamal, who was successfully rescued by the Indian government from his perilous state, heaped praise upon the Taliban after reaching home.
As per a report in ABP News, Tamal Bhattacharya claimed that the Taliban has not only treated him well but also fed him good food. “They (Talibs) also played cricket with us,” he claimed. Tamal later hailed the radical Islamist outfit for being ‘trustworthy’. This is despite the fact that he had earlier pleaded with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to evacuate him immediately from Taliban-controlled Kabul. Tamal’s contentious claims found overwhelming support among the radical Islamists, who were seeking opportunities to whitewash the atrocities committed by the Talibs. It was also alleged that he might be planning to flee the country soon.