Cohesive Bases of the Baloch Nationalism
The topic has taken from book of Taj Mohammad Breseeg “Baloch Nationalism, its origin and development”.
History, according to Nina Swidler, is the heart of recent Baloch nationalist scholarship. Arguing the importance of historical basis of the Baloch nationalism, swindler point out, “in part because other conventional resources of national identity are problematic and in part because the failed insurgency of the 1970s highlighted parallels between the colonial and post-colonial situation of the Baloch”. The Baloch nationalists largely emphasis their common history and cultural bonds, even more that their common ethnic origin. It is because Baloch origins are obscure; legends suggest that heterogeneous groups of people migrate at different times to the territory to which they gave their name. According to G.P Tate, “Whatever ethnological significance may have been attached at one time to the term Baloch disappeared and the name at last came to mean merely nomads of mixed blood”. Brian Sponger also suggests that the Baloch may have been a generic term referring to all nomadic groups beyond the reach of settled authority.
Religion and language are also problematic markers of an inclusive Baloch identity. The vast majority of Baloch are Sunni Muslims, as are most Pakistanis; thus religion doesn’t distinguish Baloch identity in Pakistan. However, the case in Iranian Balochistan is different. In Iranian Balochistan, the Baloch are Sunni but most Iranians are Shiite Muslims. These are a substantial number of Brahui speakers in northern Balochistan who are culturally very similar to the Baloch, and the Baloch, who inhabit the Indus Plains, Punjab and Sindh or Seraiki. Although Brahui and Balochi aer unrelated languages, multi-lingualism is common among the Brahui speaking. “The Balochi and Brahui languages”, Tariq Rehman believes, “are symbols of the Baloch identity, which scholars acknowledge past ethic and tribal divisions, they are reluctant to acknowledge them in the present. They argue that the cultural similarities between Baloch and Brahui far outweigh the differences and they suspect the government of supporting ethic distinctions in order to undermine a national identity.
The use of history is central for modern nation building. Relying on their Shajaras and traditions the Baloch claim that they came from Aleppo, present Syria, through Iran to Balochistan, in the early years of Islamic calendar. Despite the lack of an early written literature, the poets, and Loris have handed down to the present day the stories of their resistance against the invasions of the Turks and Mugals in 13th and 14th centuries. Similarly the myths of was with the Persians, the Afghans, and other foreign invaders in the later period, the mass migration into Sindh and Punjab, as during the reign of Mir Jalal Han (12th century) and Mir Chakar Rind (1485-1512), all have been maintained by their war ballads generation to generation. Inspired by their myths and legends, genealogy and traditions, the Baloch claim to have a long and heroic history with endless resistance movements. Thus for them to be a Baloch is source of honor.
Describing the Balochs’ perception of their history, Selig Harrison a prominent authority on the subject of Baloch nationalism wort4e in 1981, “Reliving their past endlessly in books, magazines, and folk ballads, the Baloch accentuate the positive”. “They revel in gory details of ancient battles adversaries, focusing on how valiantly their generals fought rather than on whether the Baloch won or lost. They point to the heroes who struggled to throw off the yoke of more powerful oppressors and minimize the role of the quislings who sold out the Balochi cause”.
The Early History
Evidence of civilization in Balochistan has been found from as far back as the third millennium BC. Archaeologists believe that the people of the area had become familiar with agriculture and the use of wild animals, and that they lived in clay-brick houses. Stone-made ornaments and jewellery of precious stone were also found. In this period, Balochistan according to archaeological evidence served as an intermediary link between the cultures of South Asia and Middle East.
There is a marked cultural similarity between the settlements in Balochistan and those of the Indus Valley civilization. The material remains found in Nal, Quetta and Mehrgar support this assertion. The Indus Valley civilization, which reached its zenith around 2000 BC, is presumed to have been founded by Proto-Australoid people maintaining regular contact with Mediterranean culture and mixing with its peoples. Trade and cultural links between the Indus Vallley civilization and the contemporary Sumerian civilization were well established. The Sumerian and Akkadian records, dating from 3000 and 200 BC, mention such trade relations between the Tigris-Euphrates valley and places called Magan and Melukhkha, identified with the present-day Makkuran. Migration to this region from other parts of the world began early in prehistoric times. Among the early arrivals were the Dravidian peoples. The Aryan tribes that began pouring into the Iranian plateau between 1500 and 1000 BC followed the Dravidians. They gradually established their hold over the whole Iranian plateau and the wetern and northern parts of the Indian sub-continent. From about 1000 BC the Indo-Aryans had vanquished all significant opposition and become the dominant and most numerous group in these areas.
The Baloch form the core ethnie of the Baloch nation. Their history begins in the antiquity of creation myths. These myths of their origin also supported by the traditions and genealogy, tell us about their Arab origin. While such myths don’t reflect much light on the historical roots of a people they nevertheless demonstrate a people’s belief in the antiquity of their origins. Myths like that of Daptar are widely believed and thus politically important today. The historical record itself is vague on whether the Baloch were native to their land, or whether they arrived during one of the many waves of migration that swept the ancient Middle East. It must be bome in mind that various Islamic peoples in the region have pretended to an Arab descent and proudly displayed Arab genealogy a fact no doubt due to the religious prestige which attaches to Arab descent among these peoples.
The Baloch Semitic origin has been questioned not only by the non-Baloch scholars, but as well as by the Baloch. Living in the vicinity of the Persians and Indians for millennia, having a close linguistic affinity with both of them, the Balochs’ pretension to an Arab descent, probably rooted in the consistent suspicion and distrust between them and their Persian and Indian powerful neighbors. The Baloch inclination to their Arab neighbors as far as we know has always been more or less politically motivated. For Dr. Inayatullah Baloch, “the belief of the majority of the Baloch that they are of Semitic or Arab descent, and are thus a non-Iranian and non-Indian race, justifies to themselves their status as a separate nation on the basis of different background in Pakistan and Iran”.
There are two competing theories on the historical origin of the Baloch: the first states that the Baloch are a native people who have been described as the Oritans, the Jatts, the Medes, etc. in ancient record; the second states that the Baloch migrated into the area some 2000 years ago.
The native theory is based on the argument that the indigenous people of Makkoran form the bulk of the Baloch nation. Probably, the word “Baloch” is corrupted form of Melukhkha, Meluccha or Mleccha, which was the designation of Makkoran during the third and the second millennia BC, as shown by the Mesopotamian texts. The Baloch, according to the native theory, are considered to be the descendent of the med, a nomadic people of the Median Empire (900-500 BC) and the Jatt. It appears that the Med are early Aryan tribes who came to the region origin who migrated to Makkoran from the east before the Med. Col. Mockler, who served as a political officer in the region, argues that the mass of the Baloch people are the remnants of the ancient people of Makkoran.
Emphasing the native theory of Baloch origin, Dr. Sabir Badal Khan, a specialist on Balochi oral poetry points out, “it seems more likely that the majority of the Balochi speakers, living in the present-day Balochistan, had not come from outside as a result of a mass migration as it is generally believe by some writers basing their hypotheses on some poetic fragments most probably composed during the late 16th century”. Similarly Munir Ahemed Gichki a history professor in Balochistan University, strongly criticizes the Baloch migration theory from northern Iran in late first millennium AD. Being outsiders and invaders, according to Gichki the British conceptualized a history about the Baloch for their own perspectives the Baloch like themselves as conquerors from forign lands. The British according to the Gichki created this concept because they wanted to paint the Baloch as an emigrant people in their own land, balochistan.
According to the orientalist version of Baloch history the Baloch came to the present Balochistan as immigrants in the 11th century or according to some sources, even much later, in the 14th century. This theory as earlier mentioned, locates the Baloch migration into Balochistan just a few centuries before the British arrival in the region. Consequently, according to this interpretation of history, Gichki argues “both the Baloch and the British should have the same status regarding their right over the country”. Professor Munir Ahemed Gichki in balochistan is as old as the Persians’ and the Afghan history in the region.
Like Gichki the Iranian writer, Iraj Afshar (Sistani) in his book “Negahi be Sistan wa Balochistan” (A Glimpse to Sistan and Balochistan, 1985) argue that the Baloch since the ancient time have been living in their present homeland, Balochistan. Their history, according to Afshar is aws old as the written Iranian history. He believes that the Baloch like the Persians, the Tajiks and the Kurds are Aryan or Iranian race. It should be noted that when the Arabs conquered the area during the reign of Caliph Waleed bin Abdul Malik (705-715), the Baloch were already living in Makkoran, southern Balochistan. Those who believe the Baloch are natives , however, trace the habitation of modern Balochistan by the same people, referred to by historians by different names.
Some scholars, however, challenge the view that the Baloch are the original people in the area. Based on linguistic evidence, they believe that the formation of the Baloch ethno-linguistic community is associated with the migration into Kerman and Makkoran of the principal ethnic group of today’s Balochistan, the Baloch. Arguing largely on linguistic basis, these scholars believe that the Baloch were living along the southern shore of the Caspian at the time ofr Christ. They argue that the Balochi language originated in a lost language linked with the Parthian or Median civilizations, which flourished in the Caspian and adjacent areas in the pre-Christian era. Why and when this migration occurred is not clear. It is possible that it was brought about by Khusrow I Anushirwan’s campaigns against the Baloch, the tribes inhabiting the territory of present-day Gilan and northern Khorasan, or by the incursion of the Ephtalites into northern Iran. If the latter is the case, believes Gankovsky, “the ethnogenesis of the Baloch nation took place approximately in the fifth and the early sixth centuries AD”.
The above mentioned two theories, however, are not totally antithetical. It is possible that a group of people who are native to the land lived in the area for thousands of years speaking a dialect, which is related to the modern Brahui language. With the arrival of an Iranian origin people from the region around Caspian Sea in the 5th or 6th centuries AD, as observed by Gankovsky, the original population may have abandoned their former tongue and accepted the language of the new arrivals. The dispute is likely to keep ancient historians busy for some time. Whether an indigenous people or migratory, the Baloch have lived in the area of Balochistan since the start of the Christian era, and their language is primarily related to the northern Iranian languages.
The Baloch, according to Mohammad Sardar Khan Baloch, are descendants of Chaldeans or Babylonians. The great Chaldeans of ancient history, according to Sardar Khan Baloch, “hereafter, passing from turmoil and transition were no more heard by the same name but in intermittent periods of history in alien lands under alien rule were addressed as ‘Balus’ or ‘Baloch’ after the name of their patron deity and patent cult, the god Belus of temple Belus. Sardar Khan professor of ancient history at Oxford University , that the word Baloch derived from ‘Balus’ the king of Babylon, who is identified with Nimrod or Nebrodes, the son of Kush, of the Holy Writ, and was the founder of the Chaldean dynasty. In 538 BC, Cyrus the Great Achaemenian ruler and founder of the Persian Empire defeated the last Chaldean ruler, Beshazzar. Thus the Chaldean Empire came to an end. After the fail of Babylon, according to Sardar Khan Baloch, the ancestors of the Baloch were forced by the Achaemeanian ruler to migrate to the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the area called today Armenia and Kurdistan. However, relying on Ferdowsi’s Shahnamah, Baloch were living in the northern regions of the Iranian plateau much earlier than Cyrus’s expeditions to Babylone. Shahnamah mentions the Baloch as the resident of Gilan and Khorasan in the Median conqueror who defeated the Meds and established the Persian Empire. Thus, it directly contradicts to what Sardar Khan claims.
Returning back to the second and the first millennia BC, mighty empires such as the Assyrians, the Medians, the Persians held sway in that “cradle of civilization” which stretched fromt the shore of the Mediterranean to the hinterland beyond the Persian Gulf. According to Shahnamah, the legendary king of Media (Madistan), Kai Kawos, expanded his empire up to the Balochistan coast, in 549 BC. The mightiest Persian king Darius (522-485) subjugated Balochistan at around 540 BC. He declared the Baloch country as one of his walayat and appointed a satrap (Governor) to it. Probably it was during Baloch tribes were gradually Aryanised, and their national characteristics formed. If that is the case, the formation of the Baloch ethno linguistic identity should be traced back to the early centuries of the first millennium BC.
The earliest extant source, “Shahristaniha-e Eran-shahr” a Pahlavi text written in the 8th century, though probably representing a pre-Islamic compilation, lists the Baloch as one of the seven autonomous mountain communities. The Arab writers in the 9th and 10th centuries mentioned them, usually as Balus, who were living in the area between Kerman, Khorasan, Sistan and Makkoran. The Baloch appear to have had a separate district of Kerman, but they also lived distance to the est ot the Fahraj (the eastern border of Kerman), probably Kharan or Chaghai.
The Baloch, as mentioned earlier, are generally considered to have arrived in Kerman from the north. The evidence for this assumption depends on two arguments: the classification of Balochi as a: Northwest Iranian language” and the fact that in Ferdowsi’s Shahnamah, one of the oldest documents in this regard, they are mentioned in conjunction with Gilan and Khorasan. Referring to the Shahnamah, an Iranian linguist, Dr. Khanlari, further specifies the Baloch residence as to the north-east and the east of the Caspian Sea and the north of present day Khorasan, before they moved to Kerman, Sistan and Balochistan.
(To be continued)