For Anil Kumar Marri Baloch, India is a home away from home, where he can live without the fear of persecution, religious or otherwise. Anil was not born and brought up in India. He is from Baluchistan, Pakistan, residing in Delhi NCR. I am amazed to know that he never faced any discrimination in India, which even I, despite being a mainstream Indian, cannot be absolutely certain of.
Baluchistan is the largest (but the most deprived) province of Pakistan, compromising of almost half the area of the country. According to the 2017 census, Baluchistan has a population of 12.34 million while the total population of Pakistan is around 198 million.
Beyond Pakistan, Baloch people have settled in various countries neighbouring Pakistan as well as around the world such Iran, Oman, UAE, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, France, Germany, UK etc. for various reasons. These reasons span from historical, such as being taken there as slaves in the past, to economic such as looking for better opportunities, to political, such as looking for asylum nowadays. Quite a few Balochs have also left Pakistan to work as mercenaries elsewhere.
While researching on the subject, I found a considerably sized Baloch population settled (or settling) in India. In the past, Baluchistan was a part of India during the rule of the Mughals and has been in close contact with mainland India since. Baloch warriors were spread across the armies of various princely states across the subcontinent; consequently, their descendants settled down in North India.
With the annexation of Kalat in 1839, the British East India Company started to control the overall affairs of Baluchistan. Britishers brought Baloch people to work on, for instance, the old Mumbai-Pune Highway. The descendants of these workers are settled in present day Mumbai and Gujarat.
Another community I discovered settled in Mumbai is of the Bhag-Naris. This community migrated to Mumbai during the Partition from Karachi. Bhag and Nari are two cities in the Lehri district of Baluchistan. Though they are Baloch by domicile, the Bhag-Naris speak Seraiki, a language spoken in south Punjab. The Seraiki-speaking Bhag-Naris shifted to Karachi in the early twentieth century for trade and business opportunities and thereafter to Mumbai in 1947. To this date, the Bhag-Naris retain their own Panchayat to look after their day-to-day affairs.
Further north in Rajasthan and Punjab are the Kakkar Pashtuns. The Kakkars belong to the Jogezai
tribe of Baluchistan. Like the Bhag-Naris, they too came to India during the Partition, but settled in
Rajasthan and Punjab. Today, a large group of Kakkars – about 200 families – can be found in Jaipur
Baloch migration to India did not stop after the Partition but continues even now. The initial wave of Baloch migrants post-Independence came in 1979; hundreds of Baloch families then settled in Delhi. The most recent wave of Baloch migrants has been coming since the early 2000s. The Govt of India has granted citizenship to some, while the others are still struggling to pull through. Anil Kumar Marri Baloch is one such Baloch who received Indian citizenship after living in India for more than 13 years.
The Baloch community in New Delhi is strong with more than 2000 families living in and around the areas of Madangir, Khanpur and Devli. Late Mr Nandlal Sachdeva was one of the tall figures of community, who paved the way for Baluchistan Hindu Panchayat to look after the grievances of the community.
The Baloch community is strong rooted and deeply committed to help new migrated families to settle in a place which is unknown to them. However, as it goes with time and in a metropolis like Delhi, the current generation has been tied up with daily matters and regular mundane issues of a city life. Yet, people who have burnt their hands dealing with the harsh reality of the Baloch today understand the pain their brethren go through, and it is in these times that migrants who have settled down and acquired citizenship help the incoming ones.
Recent citizens like Anil who have integrated with the Indian society help other incoming migrants complete the process of citizenship. He also provides them with the know-how of living in a city like Delhi which is one of the most expensive cities in India. Being a linguist makes Anil’s job easier as it is, ultimately, the language which really helps lower barriers; in an uncharted territory, to know someone who speaks your language is next to finding a family.
Baluchistan seeped into ordinary Indian consciousness when Prime Minister Modi spoke out on the trials and troubles of the region in his Independence Day speech in 2016.
However, it is equally (if not more) important to know that beyond the geographical entity of Baluchistan, there are thousands of Baloch who are living among us, and who should be provided help and support. As humans, the least we can do is to make them feel at home in our country.
“I cannot change the place of my birth, but I love India,” says Anil. “There will be biases, but as any
individual, I want to earn my livelihood in peace. This is the only thing I expect from a country like
India” he finishes, before we part our ways to meet again in the future.
(This post first appeared here in The Tilak Chronicle.)
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.