The cohesive bases of the Baloch Nationalism

The subject has been taken from book of Taj Mohammad Breseeg “Baloch Nationalism, its origin and development”.

Historical Development:

Continued from previous…..

The Baloch are mentioned both in mythological and historical parts of the Shahnamah. In the mythological part of the Shahnamah the Baloch make their appearance as gallant warriors forming a part of the army of Kai Kawos, also known as “Kai Khosrow”. The King’s son kown as Siawosh in Shahnamah commanded this army. Siawosh was directed to wage a war against Afrasiab, the king of Turan, who was an enemy of Iran. The army formations, composed of different tribes, were presented to Kai Kawos for inspection; and each contingent acted under its own leader. The Shahnamah comments: “After the Gustham came Ashkesh. His army was from the wanderers of the “Koch and Baloch”, intent on war with exalted “cock-combs”, whose back none in the world ever saw, nor was one of their fingers bare of armour. His banner (i.e. the banner of the Baloch contingent under Ashkesh) bore the figure of tiger. Shahnamah tells us about Kai Kawos’s expeditions both to central Balochistan (Turan), and Southern Balochistan (Makkoran). In the Makkoran expedition, according to Shahnamah the King of Makkoran was killed and his country was occupied. Ferdowsi also mentions that the King Kai Kawos ordered his Baloch forces, headed by General Ashkesh, to remain in Makkoran. The Shahnmah says: “Be Ashkesh be farmood tab a sepah. Be Makran be bashadh yeki chand gah” (He [Kai Kawos] ordered Ashkesh [his Baloch commander] to remain in Makkoran for sometime).

Why did the king, Kai Kawos order his Baloch forces, to stay in Makkoran? Even though the probability of an accidental event cannot be discarded, it is more plausible that Makkoran was already a Baloch populated region. In such a case, no doubt, a Baloch force might have been more effective to establish peace in a Baloch-inhabited, far-flung county. Azim Shahbakhsh, a history lecturer in Balochistan University, believes that the Baloch commander, Ashkesh played a key role in the pacifying of Makkoran after tis occupation by Kai Khosrow. However, relying on the Shahnmah, the first Baloch contact into central Balochistan and Makkoran, was established during the reign of the Kai Khosrow, in the early 6th century BC.

It should be added that, apart from its mythological part, the Shahnamab informs us about the Baloch in its historical part, during the Sasanid dynasty. The Sasanid king Ardshir and Khusrow I Anushervan fought the Baloch and that the Baloch several others Sasanid kings. A 17th century historian, Akhund Saleh, in his book Kur-Gal-Namak, cites the massacre of the Mazdakis (a Zoroastrian sect) in the reign of Anushervan, the anti-Mazdaki King of Sasanid dynasty. According to Akhund, among the massacred followers of Mazdak, two hundred thousand were Baloches. The survivors of this massacre, as mentioned by Akhund fled to Turan (Balochistan) and Sindh. It has also been argued that the Baloch left traces of their language in the oases of the central deserts of the Iranian plateau as the migrated south. There is no other evidence that could be used either to date or to confirm the theory of a southward migration by the Baloch. It is important to note, however, that there are still Baloch living in eastern Kerman province.

When and why did the Baloch migrate eastward? Evidence about this migration is also limited. The main sources of our information are of two major types: the corpus of traditional Balochi poetry, known as Daptar-eshair, and the later Mughal histories. According to the written records, up to the late 10th century AD the Baloch or Koch-o-Baloch inhabited the western and northern areas of Kerman, Sistan and Makkoran. Their migration eastward may have been the result of pressure, first from Muslim rulers, then from the Seljuk invasion in the 11th century and the devastating inroads later by Genghis Khan. By the 14th century, the Baloch were settled in central Balochistan up to the Jhalawan hills. Their further migration to the Indus valley took place at a later date. In the early 13th century, the Baloch formed the bulk of the population in the region north of Heart in the 13th and 14th centuries were friendly with the Kurt ruler of the area.

The oldest and most important ballad, the Daptar, probably from the 12th century, states that the Baloch and the Kurd were kindred branches of a tribe that migrated eastward from Aleppo (Syria). But in this ballad, the cause of migration is stated to be their fight with Yazid, as the Baloch by their own account were the followers of Caliph Ali, father of Imam Hossein. After the martyrdom of Imam Hossein at Kerbala in 680 AD, the Baloch for fear of being persecuted by the army of Yazid had to migrate eastward. The Daptar tells of the arrival of the Baloch in Sistan and of the hospitality of a king named Shams-al-Din. After a time, another ruler called Badr-al-Din, persecuted them and drove them away. Furthermore, the Daptar, informs us about the forced migration of 44 Baloch tribes southward from Sistan to Makkoran, under the leadership of Mir Jalal Han. Relying on Daptar, Longworth Dames believes that the lifetime of the legendary ancestor of the Baloch, Mir Jalal Han, falls in the eleventh and the twelfth centuries.

The belief, however, prevails among all the Baloch tribes that they came from Aleppo, through Iran to Makkoran, whence they again moved eastward and extended along the Indus valley in Kalat. “The Baluch”, states Inayatullah Baloch, “differ from their neighbours not only in their language, literature, religion, and feelings, but also in their traditions and habits”. The Baloch, he says, presents a strong contrast to his Afghan neighbor. His build is shorter and he is more spare and wiry. He looks on courage as the highest virtue, and on hospitality as a sacred duty. Unlike the Afghan he is seldom a religious bigot and, as Sir Denzil Ibbeston, in mid-19th century described the Baloch, “he has less of God in his head, and less of the devil in his nature” Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini a physician, is of the strong opinion that the Baloch are genetically different from the Punjabis and the Persians. He believes “the Baloch not only physically, but also biologically and mentally are unique.” Furthermore, Dr Jehanzeb points, “the Baloch have their own sets of values, which are quite different to rest of nations living in the region”.

The Baloch have their own national code of honour, which separates them from their neighbours. Inayatullah Baloch points to the importance of the Baloch national code of honour as a factor, which gives the Baloch a separate national identity. He points out that the most important part of the Baloch unwritten constitution is known as the “Balochmayar” (code of honour), which guides the Baloch national life. In many ways, the “Balochmayar” influences the life of the individuals and determines the future of Baloch society. These traditions are completely different from the traditions of the Muslim of the Indo-Pak subcontinent and from those of the Persians of Iran. Each person from his youth knows the Baloch traditions. The Baloch code of honour, as stated by Inayattullah Baloch, “is opposed to and contradicts state laws of Iran and Pakistan.”

Linguistically, beside the Baloch, the second important groups in Balochistan are the Brahui. Brahui traditions and war ballads regards the word Brahui as derived from the eponym of one of their forefathers, Braho, which is not an uncommon modification of the name of Brahim or Ibrahim. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India, the origin of the Brahui is as much an enigma to the ethnologist as their language has been to the philologist. Different views are expressed about the origin of Brahuis. Khuda Bakhsh Marri hold the view: “The brohis were, it seems, one of the many early tribes of Baloches; and to this day, the Brohi speaking tribes in Balochistan claim to be Baloches. Most of them are bi-lingual, speaking both Balochi and Brohi. A close study of the Brohi language goes to show that about 75% or more words have been borrowed from Balochi. The remaining words must be of the language spoken since the ancient Dravidian rule of South Balochistan, which extended up to Moinjodaro in Sind.”

In Henry Pottinger’s opinion the Brahuis are of Tatar or Mughal origin. Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, the last Khan of Kalat argues that they are of Baloch stock. Based on linguistic evidence, however, a small group of scholars is of the view that the Brahuis belong to the Dravidian stock. Denys Bray considers that the Brahuis are of Dravidian origin. He perceived that the language spoken by the Brahuis is similar to the Dravidian language.

The Brahui are considered by some to be a stumbling block to Baloch nationalism because of their different language. The Pakistani governments, as the British before them, classified the Brahui as a separate ethnic group in order to thus weaken Baloch nationalism. But recent linguistic and anthropological researches have challenged this claim. According to linguist Carina Jahani of Uppsala University, ethnic affiliation is not as quickly changed as language; there is no necessary correspondence between regarding oneself as Baloch and using the Balochi language. Balochi gives way to Indian languages in the east and Persian in west, and some groups in those areas no longer speak Balochi though they maintain their Balochi identity. “Brahui tribes, in central Balochistan”, Jahani argues, “belong to this category which is bilingual in Brahui and Balochi. Similarly, Walker Connor even believes that cultural assimilation need not mean psychological assimilation.

Nina Swidler, an anthropologist who studied the Brahuis, stressed “many similarities in culture, traditions, and political organization”. She did not discover any difference between the Baloch and the Brahuis, apart from the language. Selig Harrison writes, “in terms of vocabulary… Brahui is merely a variant of Balochi”. In fact the existence of a few Dravidian words in Brahui cannot be made a reliable basis to advance the theory that the Brahuis are Dravidian. Possibly, during the Mauryan rule of Chandragputa (ca.323-297 B.C.) the Brahuis, who already occupied the Kalat plateau, had assimilated some words of the Dravidian language spoken in the adjoining areas of what is now Sindh and Punjab.

Since Brahui is categorized as a Dravidian language, a linguistic distinction is necessary. “However”, writes Harrison, “there is a continuing controversy over whether Brahui enthusiasts emphasis its special characteristics, while Baloch nationalists point out the fact that Brahui and Balochi are mutually intelligible and that Brahui has become increasingly indistinguishable from Baloch as a result of borrowings”. Another interesting element, which strengthens the cause of Baloch nationalism, is the bilingualism of the Brahuis. The majority of the Brahuis regarded Balochi as their second language. The royal family of Kalat, the Bizenjo-Sardar family and Bizenjos of Makkoran speak Balochi as their first language. Moreover, almost all the Brahui tribes in Iranian Balochistan speak only Balochi. It is interesting to note that many founders and prominent members of the Baloch national movement, like Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, and Agha Abdul Karim, are of Brahui origin. However, arguing on linguistic basis, Muhammad Sardar Khan Baluch, believes that the Brahuis are of Dravidian origin. In spite of his belief in the Dravidian origin of the Brahuis, Sardar Khan accepts that most of the Brahui population, as estimated by him in 1958, “less than quarter a million”, was racially Baloch.

The theory of the Indian or Dravidian origin of the Brahuis, according to Agha Naseer Khan Ahmadzai, was a British fabricated theory. To justify their occupation and legitimize their rule over Balochistan the British attempted to prove that the Brahui are racially and culturally Indians. If the Brahui proved to be Dravidian, they would culturally form a part of British India. However, Ahmadzai does not provide evidence to support his viewpoint. Similarly, the Vice Chancellor of Balochistan University, Professor Bahadur Khan Rodini, also rejected the Dravidian theory of the Brahuis. To control and govern the Baloch country, according to Professor Rodini, the British introduced the Brahuis as an Indian ethnic group. “Generating such theories was a part of the British divide and rule policy”, argued Professor Rodini.

(To be continued….)

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Posted on May 21, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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