- Dr. Munish Raizada (Twitter)
With Indian Prime Minister Modi raising the issue of Balochistan in his Inependence Day speech last month, the issue since has been in sharp focus in Indian media. Modi’s voice has bolstered the resolve and enthusiasm of Baloch separatists. As we all know, Baloch nationalists and separatists have been demanding separation of Baloch province from Pakistan for an independent country. They say that Balochistan was never a part of Pakistan and was acceded by force by Pakistani military.
History reveals that Baloch people have a distinct culture and identity spanning in areas that fall in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Today, Balochistan makes almost 45 % of the total geographical area of Pakistan, but Baloch people feel marginalized and many consider Pakistan as an occupier of their land. Persecution of Baloch people by Pakistani army and authorities is a routine affair.
Before 1947, Balochistan was part of India, as a princely state. Though due to partition, a part of India became a separate nation, called Pakistan, yet the connection between Balochistan and India remains. People of Baloch origin live in Delhi and some areas of Western Uttar Pradesh, namely Meerut, Baghpat and Muzaffarnagar. A report published in Times of India informs that there are approximately half a dozen villages in these areas with a significant Muslim population of Baloch ethnicity. There is even a village called Balochpura in Baghpat district.
Baloch freedom activist Mazdak Dilshad Baloch has traveled to India and has been meeting people in these areas to garner support for a free Balochistan.
In my opinion, this ethnic connection will make the struggle easy for Baloch people. India was instrumental in getting East Bengal their due in form of a separate homeland (Bangladseh). Now, it is the turn for Baloch brethren to get their Azaadi.
Well, there are other fronts in Pakistan too that have been simmering with discontentment. Take for example, Sindh province of Pakistan. Yesterday, I spoke to Shafi Muhammad Burfat who lives in exile in Europe and is the Chairman of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), an organization declared as terrorist by Pakistan. They have been fighting for the cause of an independent Sindhu Desh. Shafi told me how Pakistan, particularly Punjabi Pakistan has been suppressing the people of Sindh and Baloch. He said that Pakistan came into existence overnight without a blood shed and is now using the weapon of Islam to keep intact a country which was never in place in first place! He says Sindh has a history of 12000 years, Shiva is the shakti of Sindh and sufism is the faith.
Indians and Indian Muslim diaspora can play a significant role in giving a voice to Baloch and Sindhi people.