Jan Muhammad Dashti,
Chairman of the Balochi Academy, Quetta, Pakistan
The love of a Baloch for his homeland has been phenomenal. “Although barren, the fatherland is worth anything”, goes the saying, and folk traditions refer to the presence of the finest and costliest things in places once inhabited by the Baloch.
According to tradition, Bebagr, a folk hero of the 16th century, while bringing the daughter of one of the Afghan nobles from Kandahar very proudly describes the land of the Baloch to his Afghan sweetheart. “Let us go to the land that is of the Baloch, the town of Sibi is pleasing to our heart”, he says. This reflects a deep sense of pride and lasting regard not only for the country but for everything attached to it.
Another great national hero, Mīr Chākar of the Rind tribe, bewails the factors causing the migration of the Baloch from Sibi with great sorrow, which shows his love for the land and his reluctance to give up that place.
Sibi is amidst the storms of wars
May the pearl-like Gawhar be cursed.
From the seven hundred grand youths
Who used to tie their turbans with grace and pride,
Who raced their horses without reins,
None of them can be shown to be alive,
All fell prey to the powerful strokes of the Indian swords,
All of them were devoured by the misfortunes of Gawhar.
(Moh. Sardar Khan, A Literary History of the Baluchis, I, pp. 128-129)
The Baloch who moved out of Kirman and Sistan centuries ago in the early era of their migration eastwards always kept the memory of the area fresh in their folk tales. They talked of the mountains and rivers of their lands with a feeling of profound love which is strongly felt even by a casual observer. We come across many stories which indicate a sentimental regard for those regions where the Baloch once lived.
This paper is compiled to show how similar feelings are expressed in Balochi poetry of the second half of the 20th century. Before we do so, it is necessary to give a brief account of this period, since the patriotic elements of the Balochi poetry of this period are very much relevant to the Baloch history of this era.
Social and political changes in Balochistan in the 20th century
Beginning from the early 20th century and due to the gradual spread of literacy and improvement of means of communications, leading Baloch intellectuals became aware, more than before, of their past and the changing realities of the presentday world. Direct and indirect intra-Baloch contacts made them more and more conscious of the fact that, although divided between three countries and different administrative divisions within each country, they formed one single nation with a common past, a common culture, and, in most cases, a common language.
The rise of nationalism in South Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia and Africa had tremendous influence on Baloch leadership and intellectuals, who now began to develop (and propagate) the idea that they deserved to have a separate sovereign state. They believed that given the natural resources of the Baloch land and its geo-strategic position, such a country was not only viable, but was also potentially likely to be one of the developed modern countries.
The political reality was, however, quite different. The land and nation of the Baloch had been divided against their will into three parts, and each part was annexed to a country dominated by non-Baloch ethnic groups. The Baloch were deprived of democratic rights and the right to self-determination.
It was during this period that specific events took place. For the first time in the history of Western (Iranian) Balochistan, Dost Muhammad Khān, a traditional Baloch ruler, declared himself “the Shah”, i.e. the king of that part of Balochistan. This was a declaration of Baloch sovereignty, upon which Reza Shah Pahlavi, the shah of Iran, sent his armed forces and crushed the newly established Western Balochi Kingdom without mercy. Since then Iranian governments in succession have been pursuing policies aimed at frustrating Baloch political and cultural aspirations.
Eastern Balochistan with its capital at Kalat, known as the Baloch Confederacy of Kalat, was a sovereign state before the British extended their indirect domination of this part of Balochistan. Under forced treaties, the Khān, i.e. the ruler of Balochistan was obliged to hand over the defence and foreign affairs of the Baloch Confederacy to the British. In principle, the British recognized the sovereignty of the Baloch state. In practice, however, all affairs of the Baloch Confederacy were controlled by the British so-called “Political Agent”, who was supposed to be the British Crown’s diplomatic representative in the Khān’s court, and by the Political Agent’s ever expanding civil and military establishment. The personnel of this establishment was recruited almost exclusively among non-Baloch Indians, particularly Punjabis.
When the British left the Indian Subcontinent in 1947, the Khān, the House of Commons and the House of Lords of the Baloch Confederacy almost unanimously reaffirmed the independence and sovereignty of the Baloch State. Nevertheless the two clauses of the earlier treaties with the British which stated that the British would be responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of the Baloch state came to haunt the Baloch Confederacy. These imposed clauses implied that the Baloch Confederacy would not have an organized defence force nor would it be allowed to have direct diplomatic relations with other countries; that is to say that it would not be allowed to seek recognition as a sovereign state from the world beyond the British Crown. Pakistan, on the other hand, which had inherited not less than a fourth of the formidable British Indian armed forces and bureaucratic machinery crushed Baloch resistance and annexed the Confederacy by force in March 1948, eight months after its independence.
The Baloch resistance against Pakistani domination, however, continued in different forms with at least three uprisings. The first started with an immediate revolt against annexation of the Baloch Confederacy in 1948. The second took place in 1958 and the third in 1973. During the 1960s and the 1970s some responsible elements of the Baloch leadership offered to recognize Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan within the existing de-facto international boundaries if the three states agreed constitutionally, that they were multi-national confederal or federal states. This “revisionism” not only became controversial within Baloch circles, but also weakened the Baloch national struggle. The rejectionists argued that it was futile to expect that the three states would become democratic in a real sense, accepting the principles of multi-national confederalism or true federalism.
The aspirations of the Baloch federalists remained unfulfilled, because until very recently the military-bureaucratic complex and reactionary Islamic forces intervened repeatedly in constitutional politics of Pakistan. Constitutions were abrogated by the military or military-supported regimes, thus frustrating the hopes for the establishment of a truly multi-national federal democratic state. Iran and Afghanistan also continued their policy, rejecting the idea of federalism and multi-nationalism.
Aspirations for freedom or federalism, and demands for the recognition of their cultural, linguistic and other basic human rights, particularly the right to self-determination, were costly for the Baloch. Baloch leaders and activists who identified with these aspirations were oppressed severely. Their parties and publications were banned repeatedly. Several military and paramilitary operations were launched. Numerous Baloch leaders, activists and their sympathizers were imprisoned for years. Towns, villages and farms were bombarded and people were killed. Most of the imprisoned were humiliated and tortured. Many were put to death after show trials by military courts. Particularly beginning from the late 1950s, an increasing number of Baloch activists and sympathizers of the Baloch movement fled Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan in order to avoid harassment, imprisonment, torture and death.