Monthly Archives: May 2013
Hakeem Baloch is a renowned Baloch intellectual, storyteller and a former high-level bureaucrat. He has richly contributed to Balochi language through short stories and translation of foreign literature in Balochi. Born in Panjgur district, Mr. Baloch also served as Balochistan’s former Chief Secretary, the highest civil service position in the province. He has authored more than 10 books in Balochi, Urdu and English languages. Mr. Baloch’s political columns regularly appear in different newspapers while his commentary on Balochistan’s politics and society is regularly aired on a number of radio and television stations. The Baloch Hal spoke to Mr. Baloch on a number of cultural issues.
How do you define culture?
It is very difficult to define culture because experts say that there is no single definition to culture. And, to define something amounts to confining and limiting its broader meaning.
In French society, culture means ‘education’ and it seems to be a good definition but education does not solely mean bookish education. It means the values; the faculties that you inculcate the things mentally come into the culture. Moreover, art, sculpture and many other tools represent a culture.
It is the basic determining factor of the way of one’s life; but for that the basic thing is your native and national language. Any creative thing in your literature, for example, all the great literary critics maintain that what you can create or produce in your native language that you are not capable of producing or creating in other tongue or languages. So, language is the best vehicle of the representation of culture, art and many beautiful aspects and even ugly aspects must not ignore them of the society. So, it is the total expression of the society as a whole in its creativeness, even in its critical approach to the social ups and downs, social evils and also to the social goods which keep on changing. But basic goods and evils that are somewhat eternal and universal are found in many cultures in all over the world. So, these things: your makes, your beliefs, your way of worship, your mosques, your temples, which are the product of human mind. Whatever is the product of human mind, to my mind, is included in the culture.
Anyhow, basic culture lies in your social relations: for example, how do you irrigate your land, how do you distribute the crops, etc. Besides it, how do you treat the gender differences between man and woman, how do you have the way of marriage that determines the whole thing.
To my mind, one of the things is this that in our culture as it is called a settled society where we are civilized. By civilization I mean people are nomadic and migratory. They grow up with their crops. They have a different approach towards life because of the necessities of the life that how do you attain the necessities of the life that determines the whole of your culture.
In our settled areas, our relations are different from the other parts because it is a conglomeration of the many cultures through ages when you are crossing due to the traditions and nomadic life. As a result, we have received many things in the cross section. That is why in our parts, especially the IndusValley where we do have the influence of inter-civilization in our culture. Also, the status of woman in our society is quite different from the world because here is a big cultural variation.
So much so they say father’s land, not the mother’s land. Motherland is totally different that means the land of the mother. She is the creator. But by father land means the land which your father has captured and you are the master of it. So this master-slavery relation in regards to husband –wife relation does not exist in those parts whether it is our neighbor country or Pakistan. But in western Balochistan, this difference is quite poignant and clear.
What do you say about the Balochi literature?
Literature is the product of genius of a nation. As far as Balochi literature is concerned, one must admit that the Baloch so far has not attained nationhood in itself. Baloch is not nationally developed like Persia, Arabia and European countries.
Baloch at least speaks three or four languages. But basic language is what the language of majority. In eastern, western and central Balochistan, Brahui and Siraiki are also being spoken by Baloch tribes, but the national language of Baloch is Balochi.
In the Indus valley too, Balochi’s syntics and grammar is quite different.
How do you see the development of Balochi literature?
Unfortunately, we have failed to become a nation. We have also not developed into a full nation. Literature can develop at that time when it language becomes a national language and it is taught and studied.
In my many books, it is clearly mentioned that our language is in “unlettered” form. It has got very meager chances to develop.
Moreover, language must be a medium of interaction. It must be a way of educating the children.
Verbal literature can be taught in poetries but presently our poetry is degenerated. And our today’s poetry does not have resemblance with the great classic poetries. There has come a distortion in our today’s poetry due to its misrepresentation, etc. It is represented with a distorted version.
Literature can thrive or promote in the presence of patronage, but we do not have it. Unfortunately, we have programmes on TV and Radio in a very bad Balochi. These are making distortion of our language. I wish it had not been used in such a bad Balochi which is in a distorted form. And I am also afraid that due to the above mentioned reasons our Balochi and Bravi languages may lose their essence.
What is your contribution towards Balochi literature?
When I was in the Radio Pakistan Karachi, I translated English news into Balochi. So, I learnt how to translate them from one language into the other one.
I have also translated French novels into Balochi. I have adopted some dramas for Radio Pakistan Karachi. I have produced 11 short stories in Balochi. I also translated them into the other languages. But my literary product is totally in Balochi. I have written books about Balochi literature. This is what I could contribute to the Balochi literature.
Unfortunately, these have no influence in Balochistan because these are not being taught in our schools and colleges. Here, constructed language is taught in our schools and colleges. But language should be generated, not constructed.
Why is the young Baloch generation not interested in Balochi literature?
I should tell you one thing that it is not their fault. When you produce a literature so it is self expression, and you should express it the way that it should have the values and recognition in our society. But these values and recognition come when you are teaching them in schools, colleges and universities.
In Balochistan, we have totally deprived the students of it. It is not being taught over here. In our literature, stagnation has occurred. And it is just being emulated and copied. It should be like the flowing water of a stream. It should not have any contaminations. It also should not be like the stagnant water of a pool in which harmful things also grow.
About it, I have written in one of my books: “Save the Balochi language from extinction”.
What do you want to advise the young Baloch generation about the Balochi literature?
Well, our young Baloch generation had better purify the old literature of the classics. They also had better go through it in an advanced form, not in a distorted form. Also, the purity of language must be maintained at any cost.
Lastly, it is my wish that our young Baloch generation must maintain the chastity of our literature and culture.
Published in The Baloch Hal on May 25, 2013
Dr. Shah Mohammad Marri is a professor at theBolan Medical College (B.M.C.), Quetta, and a renowned Baloch historian and intellectual. He is the editor of the progressive monthly magazine,Sangat [friend[ and the author of several books.The Baloch Hal spoke to him exclusively about the state the Hindu religious minorities in Balochistan, their origin and contemporary challenges.
Who are the Hindus living in Balochistan?
Hindus are Balochs as like the rest of the Baloch people living in Balochistan. They are the ancient people of this land and belong to this place. And I do not agree with the theory of migration of the Hindus, Balochs, Zikris, and other tribes or religious sects of Balochistan. All of them are indigenous to this land. They have been living here before the advent of the Maher-Gar civilization which is 11,000 years old. Maher-Gar civilization neither destroyed nor burnt. It migrated, for example, to Peerak, Mohenjodaro and Harappa. We can excavate more areas along with the Bolan-River and so on. In a nutshell, for the last 11,000 years, people have been going, coming and getting merged over here.s
Balochistan has also been home to other religions such as Buddhism and Zoroastrians in various time periods, some vanished and some exist.
In ancient times, how did Hindus settle in Balochistan?
Before answering that question, we should know when the Balochs began to settle in Balochistan? Some say that the Hindus have been living here even before the Balochs. It is not true. We all are migratory populations. I do not know exactly what the religion at the time of the Maher-Gar civilization was. Religion and caste system came very late. Different religions emerged during the long history of Baloch. There was trade. Goods were brought over here from Africa and Central Asia. It is difficult to say whether the Hindus or the other castes settled over here before the others.
The people settled in Balochistan due to agriculture and domestication of animals. After that, slowly and gradually, in thousands of years, people today are only partly, not entirely, settled. That is why it is difficult to assert that how and when originally a particular tribe or religion, i.e., Hindus and others settled in the area today known as Balochistan.
Moreover, Balochistan has been urbanized. There were cities. It is the land of different tribes, castes and traders. Nobody can say with certainty as to who settled here first.
How do you see the relations of the Balochs with the Hindus?
Balochistan has a caste system. The Hindus are viewed as low castes. They are not considered as equals. For instance, they are not given equal shares in land distribution nor can they marry the people from the majority religion the upper caste. Besides the religious minority Hindus, even this caste system exists within the majority Balochs among whom the lower castes are known as the Sarmasthani and the Loris.
In eastern Balochistan, there are people known as the jath (camel men). They are also not given equal shares in land. Same is the case with the Hindus and the women in the Baloch society. We do not give equal rights to our women. So, it is purely because of the caste system that exists in our society..We treat someone as superior and the other as inferior. If someone from the superior caste is killed people take revenge but nothing happens if someone from a lower caste is killed. Similarly, as far as honor killing is concerned, there is mostly practiced the tribal people, i.e., first grade citizens.
Unfortunately, the Hindus are treated as unequal. They are second grade citizens. They are traders but they entirely depend on us for their security.
In return of the protection offered to them by the local tribal chiefs, the Hindus have to give goods, clothing, and valuable gifts to the concerned chiefs.
In Balochistan, Hindus are not given share in tribal lands. They do not possess livestock. They only own shops and do trade.
While they land on the same land, the Hindus barely have any relations with the majority population except inferiors and superiors.
Despite being treated as second grade citizens, the Hindus have been allowed to practice their religion. They are allowed to go to their temples. In other words, they are simply allowed to live.
They do not have a say in tribal affairs.
The Hindus have lived in Balochistan due to the trading opportunities in urban and semi urban areas of the Balochistan.
How have the Baloch elders been treating Hindus in Balochistan?
The Baloch elders have been safeguarding their honor, lives and property.
Does that mean that they are granted full rights to the Hindus? The state here is feudal and capitalistic. It is not entirely replaced by tribalism. Tribalism has broken down and does not exist in its traditional form, which means presently there is no government, Sardar, or tribal traditions. This breakdown of the tribal society has further contributed to the people’s miseries.
Because of the breakdown of the tribal structure, there is a power vacuum which has further left the religious minorities vulnerable to all forms of assaults and discrimination.
What have been Hindus’ contributions for Balochistan?
They have made positive contributions. For example, when the British intruded in Balochistan, the Hindus fought along with the rest of Balochs against the British.
In a society, everybody contributes in his or her own field. Supposedly, you may ask what the Sarmasthani were contributing. They used to be the messengers. They used to convey the message from one warring tribe to the other. They were not supposed to be killed. The tribes had them to negotiate with each other. They were the mediators in Baloch society, etc, etc.
What are the Balochistan based Hindus’ challenges?
The big challenge the Hindus in Balochistan face is that of equal rights. The class system has not been abolished yet. We should get rid of it.. It is the responsibility of the state and the government to treat all citizens equally irrespective of their religion, caste and ethnicity.
In Baloch society, there are exemplary punishments for the killing, robbing and humiliating the minorities.
Do you agree that Balochs and Hindus presently do not have amicable relations?
Presently, nobody has amicable relations with the other. People are generally against each other. We live in such times that even a brother is against the other brother.I blame capitalism and materialism for such changes in people’s behaviors. If the rest of Balochs and Hindus don’t have amicable relations, then it is because of the same capitalistic system. Everything is under the control of market. It is also the market that monitors, maintains and controls you in today’s time. Market is a cut throat competition.
Why are Hindus migrating?
Again, everyone, not only the Hindus, is migrating from Balochistan.. Take the example of the Marri tribe. They are also migrating due to the law and order situation. This land has been burning for the last thirty years. It has become an inferno for all the castes. Same is the case with the Hindus, the Christians, the Hazaras, the tribal Balochs, the settled Balochs and the Pashtuns. All of them are migrating from pillar to post to find a safe place.
If the Balochs sardars and landowners are migrating from here because they feel unsafe then what should one expect for the “second grade citizens”? Where are the Marri, Zehri and Mengal Sardars? All of them are sitting in Karachi or overseas because they do not feel sufficiently safe in Balochistan because of the bad law and order situation. . They even cannot visit their own native villages.
Moreover, our region is the epicenter for the interests of all international powers.
If you go to the Marri and Bugti areas, you will hardly find those native people in their own tribal areas. A majority of them has been compelled to migrate to Sindh where now you encounter a Marri or a Bugti in almost every district. People are also migrating due to the hunger and inadequate trade and business opportunities.
So, it is not only the Hindus who are migrating but everyone else is running for a safer place to hide and make a living.
It is due to the law and order situation. On the other hand, the state has also targeted them. For instance, in 2005, thirty-five Hindus were killed in Dera Bugti by bombing the city. After that, in great number Hindus migrated from there, otherwise no one wants to leave his motherland. The Hindu community has intimate relations with other communities. They are leaving Balochistan because they want to survive.
What should be done for the protection of the Hindus?
Well, what do you think should be done for my security? What should be done to ensure your security? Hindus, you and I all face the same problem: security. There must be an elected and accountable government to address everybody’s concerns. The state is solely responsible for the security of life, property and honor of its citizens. Email address: email@example.com
Hindus have been richly contributing in Balochistan’s economic prosperity and development since pre-partition days
Historically, it is not clear in documents to assert how and when Hindus originally settled in Balochistan. But after having sat with Balochistan-based Baloch and Hindu historians and writers, all of them agree that Hindus have been living in Balochistan since time immemorial along with Buddhists. It is also said that in some parts of Balochistan paganism has been the religion of the scattered tribal people. However, Hindus ruled Balochistan before the invasion of the Arabs in 712 A.D.
In Balochistan, Hindus have two historical and famous sacred places that belong to ancient times. These two sacred places are the Hinglaj Shrine, which is located in Balochistan’s Lasbela District in a hilly track, and the other one is in Kalat town called Kali Devi, who is the consort of the god Shiva.
At the time of partition, religious riots were rampant in the subcontinent, but Hindus were living harmoniously and peacefully in the princely state of Balochistan, which was under the rule of the chief ruler of the Kalat state, Yar Muhammad Khan. He respected the indigenousness of the Hindu community. He had also given to Hindus economic and religious freedom in Balochistan. That is why the Hindu community did not leave Balochistan at the time of the partition because all their rights were safeguarded.
Hindus had also been living amicably with the Baloch and Pashtuns since the pre-partition days in Balochistan. But after the partition, due to religious uproar and turmoil, Hindus had to leave Balochistan’s Pashtun belt to settle in Baloch populated areas or migrate to India. In 1941, the Hindus’ population was 54,000 in Balochistan’s Pashtun belt, but soon it dwindled by 93 percent after 1947.
In contemporary times, one of the prominent Hindu intellectuals, Mr Sham Kumar, told this writer about the Hindus living in Baloch populated areas: “Hindus are now facing a situation worse in Baloch residing places than they had to face in the past living in Pashtun residing places because the Baloch elders, who would show great respect for their neighborhood Hindus, are no longer living in this world, or they have become very old.”
Hindus have been richly contributing in Balochistan’s economic prosperity and development since pre-partition days. They have built schools, libraries and hospitals in various parts of Balochistan. In Balochistan, many of the Hindus are educated. They have been offering services in health, education and other sectors. But it is profoundly shocking that Hindus are now living dangerously in Balochistan. They cannot even perform their religious practices freely due to the nightmarish situation where they interminably fear for their lives, faith, honour and property. Hindus, in spite of being Balochistan’s peaceful and largest minority, are running from their old ‘motherland’ to escape persecution, because their lives are in a precarious and worsened condition these days.
In Balochistan, it was the 1990s period that turned into a great conflagration for Hindus. After that, gradually the Hindus’ manifold problems, whether it was abduction, religious persecution, migration or killing, all of them have been intensifying. Externally and internally, many Hindu families have migrated to India, inside Pakistan to its largest city, Karachi, and interior Sindh. But unfortunately they are economically living a pathetic life in these places. There are many more Hindus who still utter the words ‘migration’ and ‘insecurity’ in Balochistan.
In Balochistan, except in Makran (Panjgur, Turbat and Gwadar), Hindus are living in all other Baloch populated districts. There has been mass migration from these districts of Balochistan: Kalat, Khuzdar, Quetta, Mastung, Lasbela, Hub, Nushki, Dalbandin. On the other hand, Dr Shah Muhammad Marri, the well-known Baloch historian, said: “Take the example of the Marri tribe. They are also migrating due to the law and order situation. This land has been burning for the last 30 years. It has become an inferno for all the castes. Same is the case with the Hindus, the Christians the Hazaras, the Baloch and the Pashtuns. All of them are migrating from pillar to post to find a safe place.”
Balochistan’s Minority Minister, Mr Basant Lal Gulshan, who is a Hindu, denied the reports of Hindus migrating from Balochistan. But a Hindu Doctor said under the condition of anonymity that there had been migration, even within his own family.
The government officials, on the other hand, also say that the majority of Hindus who have been migrating from Balochistan or the country are economically sound. They see a bright future for their children in India. But it is worth mentioning here that 90 percent of the Hindus of Balochistan are unsound economically. They cannot afford to leave their indigenous places and settle somewhere else, especially India. Moreover, a sane person or community would never give up their connections to their place of birth until or unless circumstances compel them.
In Balochistan, Hindus are also complainants about the mainstream media that their sufferings hardly and rarely get discussed. That is why they rely on private TV channels to bring to light their sufferings, because people at national and international level have very little information about them.
There have also been nearly 35 Hindus killed in the former dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s regime where he launched the fifth military operation against Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the former chief minister Balochistan. Nawab Bugti used to keep the Hindu population in proximity to his legendary fort in Dera Bugti to safeguard them from criminal elements. That is why many Hindus, mainly women and children, were killed and sustained severe injuries in the assault against Nawab Bugti on March 17, 2005.
Additionally, in Balochistan, Hindus are considered low caste. They are treated unequally and as second grade citizens. They are living isolated lives in their separate localities. They do not have the right to vote. The standard of their children’s education is abysmal.
In previous times, the government could not have maintained its writ despite completing its five-year tenure. To a lesser extent, the last government would also be held responsible for the Hindus’ sufferings. That is why the incoming government should be civilised and democratically elected so that Hindus may find a solution to their tragic dilemma.
The writer is a columnist at Daily Balochistan Express, Quetta and blogs at thttp://www.akbarnotezai.wordpress.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on twitter @Akbar_notezai