Sunday, July 19, 2009

DEMONISATION OF THE BALOCH FREEDOM STRUGGLE : AN OPEN LETTER TO MRS.SONIA GANDHI

B.RAMAN

Dear Mrs.Sonia Gandhi,

No other section of the people of Pakistan had stood by India and the Pakistani Hindus as lovingly, as loyally and as courageously as the Balochs have done. Of all the people of Pakistan, the Balochs were the closest to the hearts of Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and other leaders of the Congress (I) of the pre-2004 vintage.

2. When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, in the riots that preceded and followed the Partition, practically all the Hindus, Sikhs and other non-Muslims were driven out of Pakistani Punjab and many of them from Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) despite the protection of the non-Muslims in the NWFP by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, and his brave followers. One area of Pakistan from which the non-Muslims were not driven out was Balochistan.

3. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by a Hindu mob in December,1992, mobs in Pakistani Punjab encouraged by the local officials retaliated by demolishing Hindu places of worship. There were acts of retaliation in Sindh and the NWFP too-----but not on the same scale as in Pakistani Punjab. Balochistan was one province which did not see such horrendous acts of retaliation as one saw in Punjab.

4. Baloch leaders such as Khair Bux Marri, Ataullah Khan Mengal, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and many others took the Hindus and their places of worship under their protection and saw to it that no harm came to them from the Punjabi settlers in Balochistan.

5. The Hindu population of Balochistan has considerably come down in recent years due to their forcible ejection from there by the Army after it launched the project for the construction of the Gwadar port with Chinese assistance. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) looked upon them as potential R&AW agents and forced them to shift.

6. But the Hindus, who have managed to remain, have continued to enjoy the protection of the Baloch leaders and people. When Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed by the Pervez Musharraf Government in a military operation in August,2006, among those who died with him were Baloch Hindus, whom he had taken under his protection.

7. When Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister in the early 1980s, one of the Baloch leaders, who had great love and admiration for her, wanted to celebrate the wedding of his daughter in New Delhi so that she could attend and bless the couple. She had happily agreed to it, but then had second thoughts and persuaded him not to do so. She was worried that the ISI might project him as an Indian agent.

8.When Naraimha Rao was the Prime Minister in the early 1990s, another Baloch leader, who had played a legendary role in the first war of Baloch independence and who was very ill, chose to come to India and die in its soil as a mark of his admiration and gratitude for India. As desired by him, after his death, his body was sent to his home village in Balochistan for burial.

9. Secularism is in the blood of most Balochs----whether young or old, whether rural or urban, whether educated or illiterate. There are exceptions. Some have joined the fundamentalist parties. But have you ever heard of a Baloch member of any jihadi terrorist organisation?Have you ever heard of the involvement of Balochs in jihadi terrorism in India? Have you ever heard of any Baloch sympathy for Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Have you ever heard of any Baloch member of the Pakistani diaspora abroad involved in extremism or terrorism? Have you ever heard of suicide terrorism by Balochs?

10. Yes, there have been instances of Yemeni-Balochs joining Al Qaeda and participating in brutal acts of terrorism. Some of the suspects responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in January-February,2002, were Yemeni-Balochs. These were the offspring of mixed marriages between Baloch men and Yemeni women. But such instances were an exception. By and large, the Balochs have kept out of jihadi terrorism.

11. The Balochs have been ferociously fighting for their independence again and again. They fought their first war of independence in the early 1970s immediately after Bangladesh was born. They thought they could emulate the example of the Bengalis, but Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, then in power, ruthlessly crushed them with his Air Force. The Balochs sent out frantic appeals for help to Indira Gandhi. Despite her love for the Balochs, she decided not to take any action. She felt it would be neither advisable nor feasible. Moreover, she was aware of the concerns of the Shah of Iran over the freedom struggle of the Balochs of Pakistan. Iran has a large Baloch population on its side of its border with Pakistan.

12. The Balochs were totally suppressed by the Punabi-dominated Pakistani Army till 2004. But their desire for independence has remained as strong as ever. They started a second war of independence in December 2005, which continues till now despite the most ruthless actions taken to suppress them by the previous Government of Pervez Musharraf and the present Government of Asif Ali Zardari. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed by the Musharraf Government. Many of the young leaders of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) were
subsequently killed. Despite this, the freedom struggle continues.

13. When the second freedom struggle started in December,2005, I wrote as follows in an article titled "Balochistan: Second War of
Independence" available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers17%5Cpaper1651.html : "The second Baloch War of Independence poses a moral dilemma for India. The Balochs had stood by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party during the independence struggle against the British. They had opposed the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. If India had to be partitioned, they would have preferred an independent Balochistan. The Balochs were the closest to Gandhi's heart. Due to reasons of realpolitik, we let them down during their first War of Independence. The same realpolitik would dictate painful inaction by us now too. But that does not mean we should hesitate to draw the attention of the international community to the ruthless massacre of the Baloch nationalists by the Pakistan army. We owe our moral support to them. The struggle for an independent Balochistan is part of the unfinished agenda of the Partition."

14. I was gratified subsequently when the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh publicly expressed its concern over the developments in Balochistan. But, subsequently, for understandable reasons, it chose to observe a silence. It would not have been in the interests of the Balochs and their freedom struggle to give the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment an opportunity and a pretext to project them as Indian surrogates, which they definitely are not.

15. Initially, the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment started projecting them as "miscreants". When it was not able to suppress them, it started calling them as terrorists no different from Al Qaeda and their freedom struggle as a terrorist movement. It also started alleging Indian support for them, which is totally baseless.

16. As I had pointed out in my past articles, the Pakistan Army has been misusing some of the military equipment such as helicopter gunships etc received by it from the US for use against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban to suppress the Balochs. Despite the most brutal acts of suppression, the brave Balochs have continued with their freedom struggle.

17.Just as the Chinese have been demonising the followers of the Dalai Lama opposing the Chinese rule in Tibet as terrorists no different from Al Qaeda, the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has been demonising the Baloch freedom-fighters as terrorists.

18. By failing to reject any reference to Balochistan in his joint statement with Prime Minister Yusef Raza Gilani of Pakistan at
Sharm-el-Sheikh, Manmohan Singh has unwittingly made India a party to the Pakistani exercise to demonise the Baloch freedom struggle as a terrorist movement. As the President of the Congress (I), which has always enjoyed bonds of strong love and sympathy with the Baloch leaders and people, you should repair the damage done to the interests of the nation and the image of your party by Manmohan Singh by his unwise action by clarifying the position of your party. ( 19-7-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

6 comments:

Anjaneya said...

another dark day for india. i like the fact that you have addressed this to Catholic vatican agent, Antonio Maino rather than her Personal Messenger Manmohan.she is the person really in control and continuing to project a traitorous and anti national agenda. these people have no respect for the history or the culture of Bharat and use the constitution of India to wipe their asses. Another friendly people will now be antoganised.

Shaan said...

So you think the damage can be undone by appealing to the country's supreme leader? You have written so many times in this article that Hindus were protected by the Baloch. Don't you think this is enough for the intellectual PM and his leader believe that what they have done is good for the country? After all the self proclaimed goal of Dr.Manmohan Singh is to give Muslims the first right to the country's resources, even though his party (not him because he doesn't think it is right to contest elections in India's dirty political system) has been elected by the majority Hindus.

Ashok said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smartisl said...

Sir, you should also understand that apart from the government, people like you are also indirectly responsible for putting pressure on normal citizens on both sides of the border. I am an indian from chennai whereas my wife is a baluch national and we live abroad. The members of our security establishment as well as the thinktank that you were part of earlier, seem to be having a deep paranoa towards pakistan so much that they consider my wife(and also mother of 2 of my kids holding indian passport)as a potential terrorist and go to great lengths to harass us while applying for an indian visa every year. Most of the policies that the MEA adopts while granting visas are remnants of your times and you don't know the hardships that the people who are affected go through. The ordeal continues when we land in india since she has to report to the local IB office on arrival and also on exit. As you know, her stay is also restricted to the city where i live and getting permission to visit other places is also a big hassle! I don't know what purpose is solved by having these sort of restrictions on a happily married woman with children! We are also worried about overzealous officers looking for a quick promotion who may possibly use us to further their wrong ambitions.There are many such indo-pak marriage cases abroad and children from these marriages grow up with a wrong impression of our country and ultimately end up without a sense of understanding of our indian culture, traditions or identity. Before pointing a finger or writing a letter to sonia gandhi(it is a fantastic letter, no doubt) you should use your good offices to remove these sort of shackles which hinder love, affection and interaction between people of both the countries. Our indian culture puts a great emphasis on the wife foregoing her own home in favour of her husband's home after marriage and this is contradicted by our own government agencies who make a pakistani wife feel unwelcome!

Winnowed said...

India and Pakistan were partitioned under the “Indian Independence Act 1947” passed by the British Parliament. Under this act, referendums were held in the North West Frontier Province and in the District of Sylhet (in Assam). Can you please throw some light on why no such referendum was held in the Province of Baluchistan?

Hawk said...

Sir

I will go with your analysis on the so called blunder in our foreign policy - by including Baloch issue in a joint statement.
Going beyond this - Do you see whether this call was made based on a strategy - instead of taking it as a short sighted move.
i would say this is a collective decision by PM, NSA and other MEA top officials - whoever it is - i a m sure those who took decisions at higher level are as patriots as any other Indians.

If it is a mistake - can't we repair this damage?? or Our Foreign policy is at Cross roads ??

Big Q is - whether our most respected PM - need to re look at MEA Portfolio to have the right people in right place.