VIEW: The Balochistan Hindus’ dilemma —Muhammad Akbar Notezai
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