Cohesive Bases of Baloch Nationalism

It has been taken from the book “Baloch Nationalism its origin and development”, written by Taj Mohammad Breseeg. .                    Part-II

Location and Climate:

The Balochs’ separate consciousness is territorially rooted to their homeland Balochistan. Geographically, Balochistan does not fall within the territorial limits of India. On the north, it is separated from India by the massive barrier of the southern buttresses of the Sulaiman Mountains. On the south, there is the long extension from Kalat of the inconceivably wild highland country, which faces the desert of Sindh, the foot of which forms the Indian frontier. While it lacks boundaries in the modern sense of the term, Balochistan’s core region has never been in doubt. The Baloch country, which is at present divided politically between three different countries, is physically a compact unit. The Goldsmid line, drawn in 1871 and demarcated in 1896, gave western Balochistan to Persia, while retaining the larger eastern part for the British. The Durand Line, drawn also by the British in 1894, further divided Balochistan between British Balochistan and Afghanistan, assigning to the latter a small portion of northern Balochistan. As a British colonial legacy, these borders were inherited by Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and have served to divide the country ever since.

Today eastern Balochistan (British Balochistan and the Balochistan states) constitutes the Pakistani Province of Balochistan covering an area of 134,050 square miles or 347,188 square kilometers with its capital at Quetta. The major tribes of Eastern Balochistan are: Marri, Bugti, Brahvi, Kurd, Jamaldini, Rakhshani, Bizenjo, Boleidai, Bangulzai, Umrani, Jamali, Qaisarani, Khetran, Lashari, Rind, Hout, Laghari, Mazari, Mengal, Khoso, Gishkori, Mohammad Hassani, Mohammad Shahi, Raisani, Rend, Shahwani, Zehri, Lehri, Ghorchani, Qambrani, Kalmati, Lasi, Korai, Kolanchi, Magasi, Rais, Sanjarani and Nusherwani. The agrarian economy has prevailed mainly in southern Balochistan, while tribalism and pastoral economy have dominated the northern part of the country. In many parts, however, the dual economy of settled agriculture and pastoralism are practiced side-by-side engaging both the nomads and the peasants.

Western Balochistan (Iranian Balochistan) is administratively divided into three parts of which the largest is capital at Zahedan. It is bounded by the Lut desert and the Iranian province of Khorasan in the North, by the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea stretching from the entrance to the Strait of Hurmuz to the port of Gwatr on the South and Northwest, by the province of Kerman on the West, and by the Goldsmid Line separating Pakistani and Afghani Balochistan on the East. Ethno-geographically, it comprises the Jaz Murian agricultural basin in the Centre and Northwest, the Sarhadd highlands in the North, the Mashkel lowlands and the Sarawan agricultural oasis on the East, the Westernmost districts of Geyawan (Byaban) and bashkard. To this one can add the Helmand depression inhabited by a mixed ethnic population of Baloch and Sistani people.

Economically, like eastern Balochistan, the region is divided into pastoralism in Sarhadd and agriculture in the central and southern areas. Fishing combined with some cultivation predominates in the coastal area. In the north where nomadism has been the prevailing basis of the economy until recently, the social organization was tribal. Some of the major tribes in this area are the Rigi, Yarahmadzai, Narui, Gorgej, Ismailzai, Mir Balochzai, and Gamshadzai. The natural boundaries, however, have always formed major barriers and strong defense lines against foreign invaders, even though they have not stopped the major invasions, such as the disastrous march of Alexander the Great and his armies though Gedrosia or devastating waves of Turkish and Mughal invasions from the 10th to the 15th centuries, from taking place.

From the 15th centuries on, Balochistan and the Mulk Balochi are frequently being admired in the Balochi poetry. Adoring the Mulk Balochi (the Baloch country), the Baloch nationalists in their Qaumi Tarana (National Anthem) in the early days of independence in 1947 sang, “We have conquered all the area which is now our homeland. It is real and true Balochistan. If we are separated and demarcated, then so what, this is a temporary division, our soul is one. We will destroy these walls. We are like a rain and a storm”. For the Baloch nationalists, the whole region from the east of Bandar Abbas – Kerman to the west of the Indus River, and from the Sulaiman mountains in the northeast, to the Dasht-Lut in northwest, is known as Balochistan.

The Mulk Balochi has a great impact on Baloch national feeling. It is praised by the Baloch poets and singers as the bahest-e ru-e zameen (the flower of the world), and its necessity for the Baloch is compared to that of the body’s to the soul, or according to an old Baloch saying, tou-e mai zend o hamm mai gour (the place from which we came and to which in death we will return). According to legend, Beebagr, a folk hero, while carrying away the daughter of one of the Afghan notables from Kandhar, very proudly mentions the Mulk Balochi (Baloch land), “Biroun Hamuda ke Mulk Balochien” (lets go there, the country is Balochi), Beebagr says to Granaz. This deep-rooted sense of attachment and affection to the Mulk Balochi in turn has given the Baloch the sense of identity and national consciousness. It is, closely linked with a strong sense of awareness of and admiration for the natural features of the land as is best manifested in an ancient Baloch saying that, “wa-e watan o hoshkin dar”, (I will always love my land, even if it is void and barren). The watan (country), or the Mulk Balochi, is often incorporated in patriotic songs chanted at nationalist gatherings.

The Mulk Balochi not only characterizes the Baloch history and culture, but also their christening. The main source of the Balochi christening is the natural world of Balochistan. The Baloch borrow their names mainly from animals, trees, plants, colors and even parts of the body. Most of the names, however, are of a compound of Balochi and other neighboring languages mainly Arabic and Farsi (Persian), like “Gul Mohammad”, “Gul Khan”, “Del Poll”, “Gul Bibi”, etc. There are also names, which are derived from the name of weekdays, like Shanbeh (Saturday) Doshanbeh (Monday), and Saishanbeh (Tuesday) etc. Almost all the Baloch tribal names, even of those who are living of Balochistan. The semi-mythical heroes of 15th and 16th centuries like Kammbar, Hammal, Jiand, Hani, Kiyya, Sado, etc. from another important source for baptism.

Located on the southeastern Iranian plateau, with an approximately 340,000 sq. miles, Balochistan is larger than several European states. It is an austere land of steppe and desert intersected by numerous mountain chains. Naturally, the climate of such a vast territory has extraordinary varieties. In the northern and interior highlands, the temperate often drops to 40o F in winter, while the summers are temperate. The coastal region is extremely hot with temperature soaring between 100o to 130o F in summers. While winters provide a more favorable climate. In spite of its position on the direction of southwest monsoon winds from Indian Ocean, Balochistan seldom receives more than 5 to 12 inches of rainfall per year due to the low altitude of Makkoran’s coastal ranges. The ecological factors have, however, been responsible for the fragmentation of agricultural centers and pasturelands, thus shaping the formation of the traditional tribal economy and its corresponding socio-political institutions.

The harsh climate and mountainous terrain breeds a self-reliant people used to hardship; the same conditions, however, result in isolation and difficulties in communication. While the geography has protected the Baloch from most outside influences, it also has divided the Baloch among themselves into competing communities (tribes).

It is important to note that beside the compact Balochi areas, the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Punujab, the Iranaian provinces of Balochistan-wa-Sistan, Khorasan, Ostan-e-Hurmuzgan, Kerman, and Nimruz-Valayat in Afghanistan, Baloch communities extend into neighboring areas in each country: Gonbad, Semnan and Gorgan in north Iran, Farah, Heart, Badgis, Faryab, Juzjan in Afghanistan. The also extend into neighboring countries, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, India, the countries of the Persian Gulf, Oman, Kenya, and Tanzania (especially Zanzibar). There are pockets of Baloch settlement in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, hundreds of Baloch migrated Europe (especially Sweden and United Kingdom) and America.

Very little has been published about these Diasporas communities. But several of the people interviewed point out that they very much tend to be encouraged to develop their ethnic identity. As far as I feel”, Nawaz Khan Baloch, the Baloch Community secretary (Mombassa, Kenya) stated, “we are Baloch and Balochistan is our mother land, both in Iran and Pakistan, we only love the land of Balochistan.

Similarly, Abdulkadir Noor Mohamed also from Mombassa, believes, “The use of Balochi names, and the continuous narration of our history has kept the awareness of our roots still fresh in our minds, and our yearning for self-preservation is still very much alive. According to him an impressive impetus of self-awareness is developing among the younger Baloch population of east Africa. The Balochi language, which was slowly fading away from the society, is gradually finding its way back with new awakened interest.

Most of the Baloch in the Persian Gulf except Oman migrated in the last decades in pursuit of employment and better living conditions due to the oil-boom in these states. The Baloch in Turkmenistan came from Sistan, some from the Afghan and some from the Iranian side of the border. There were three main waves of migration. It is believed the first Baloch arrived in the mid 19th century, when the Persian occupied Sistan in 1865; the second wave between 1917 and 1920; and the last and largest between 1923 and 1928. In the Soviet census of 1979, their population was 20,000. They live in the Mari (Marv) region, and are Sunni Muslims. Despite the influence of the years and the erosion of time, they have maintained their separate identity including their language and culture from the rest of people. They have also managed to maintain strong social cohesion amongst themselves.

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Posted on May 16, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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