Looking like a Baloch on ‘culture day’ may be expensive in terms of money but being a Baloch by conduct as per history and historical responsibility comes at a price which probably not many of us are ready to pay
‘Am I Baloch because of my Paag?
“Resistance Day or Cultural Day”
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
I am posing a question and will then try to answer it; in my answer I will express my views on something which has quite recently become a fad and fashion with zero returns either politically, culturally, socially or economically.
Does the Paag, Sadri and Chawat or Pashk and Sarri define a person or his/her Balochiyat or is it the character and deeds of that person which truly define his/her Balochiyat and love for Balochistan?
کیا میں اپنے پاگ ( پگڑٰی )کی وجہ سے بلوچ ہوں؟
Every March 2nd is celebrated as the ‘Baloch Culture Day’ and many Baloch don traditional Paag, Sadris, Pashks and assorted Baloch apparel pieces to prove they are Baloch; and who they need to prove to that they are Baloch and proud of it; is beyond me. Why should clothing become the ultimate symbol and projection of identity of a Nation is for me quite baffling indeed. Because only those countries and artificially fabricated nations that have no history and are culturally bankrupt need to assume and impose them as symbols. This symbolism also reveals the inherent feeling of inferiority and the consequent need to make them appear as important and necessary. The Pakistani obsession with the sherwani (overcoat) and karakul cap is a prime example.
Why should identity and culture be reduced to pieces of clothing when a Nation like Baloch has so much of history and legacy to be proud of and to cherish? The ‘culture days’ either of Baloch or for that matter of Sindhis are essentially escapism and done to give a false sense of satisfaction while shunning the real responsibilities of being a part of a nation which certainly demand sacrifice, patience and last but not the least wisdom to be able to truly serve the interests of your nation if you truly hold it dear to heart. ‘Culture days’ provide you the easy option of dancing, frolicking, laughter, showing off your new clothes and your enthusiasm for your nation and the resting contentedly at home having done your services to your nation till next March 2nd
Today the Baloch Nation faces the most critical challenges and threats to its identity, rights, culture, life and its history as never before in the millenniums that they have struggled and survived. Everything they hold dear and identify with is under threat even more so their land and with it not only their way of life but even their lives. Their resources are being taken over in name of mega-projects, military and naval bases are being imposed to protect and save those mega-projects. They are being disenfranchised and dispossessed politically, socially and economically in name of religion which forces them to accept being Pakistanis because they are primarily Muslims and only incidentally Baloch.
An insidious, deliberate, measured and gradual process has systematically been operative since the 27thMarch 1948 to turn Baloch into a powerless minority in their motherland Balochistan. This is done in two ways; one by demographic changes and secondly by the ongoing slow burning genocide which has continued since decades. So, do the ‘Culture Day’ organizers and participants think they can ward of these threats with a day of gleefulness and pomp? This day doesn’t make an iota of difference to the dangers that threaten our very existence.
The joyousness and gleefulness which naturally accompanies these so-called culture days obscures the reality of the situation. Need I repeat that political books and book fairs of political literature are curbed by the state while these culture days are promoted and encouraged. Why, because these help the state by making people oblivious to the curse of slavery and domination which is an everyday reality for Baloch. The culture day, the way it is celebrated here, is simply another tool of state to strengthen its iron grip on culture of people and mould it the way it suits their purpose and also lead they astray from the true essence of their culture. The best way to make people docile subjects is to deny them their history and culture. History and culture are inseparable but these ‘culture days’ consciously overlook the history and therefore keep people ignorant of their history of struggle and resistance. We will have to decide which side of the fence we are on; are with those who want to push us into oblivion or are we those who fight for our future, the ball is in our court.
Looking like a Baloch on ‘culture day’ may be expensive in terms of money but being a Baloch by conduct as per history and historical responsibility comes at a price which probably not many of us are ready to pay and therefore settle for these sham culture days. Had not the Culture Day the way it is observed now not served the purpose of the State they would have curbed it as they curb your book fairs. Try observing a ‘Baloch Rights day’ and see if you are allowed to hold events in universities and press clubs. Any act of Baloch which smacks of defiance and resistance to state oppression will see the strong arm of state pouncing of those who dare to adopt such a program.
A day that doesn’t relate to resistance and the struggle of the nation and doesn’t help it in its battle against oppression is a charade, a farce aimed at diverting the peoples’ mind from the real threats towards something inconsequent, irrelevant and contemptible. If the observed day doesn’t become an integral part of the Baloch struggle for their rights and the dignified life, they strive for it will remain what it is; just another ploy to fool the people into believing that they have a right over their lives and they count among the free people.
In my view the way the culture day has been observed it will remain a state sponsored, television channel promoted charade which aims at strengthening and prolonging the cultural, political, economic and social oppression that has been going on since 27th March 1948. The decision is eventually yours if you want be someone clothed as a Baloch or someone who cares for Baloch and struggles for the rights of his/her nation.
If a day is to be observed let be a ‘Resistance Day’ which honours and highlights the memory of the struggles, sacrifices, bravery and steadfastness of the likes of Mir Mehrab Khan (1839), Nawab Nauroz Khan, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Balach Marri, Sher Mohammad Marri, Mir Lawang Khan, Safar Khan Zarakzai, Shafi Bangulzai, Ali Sher Kurd, Saba Dashtyari, Reza Jahangir, Dr. Mannan, Majeed Langave and family, Hameed Baloch, Jalil Rekei, Sana Sangat, Comrade Qamber, Atta Shad, Gul Khan Naseer, and countless others who sacrificed themselves or spent their lives for Baloch rights. Observe a day that honours the thousands like Zakir Majeed, Ali Khan Marri, Kabeer Baloch, Zahid Baloch, Dr. Deen Mohammad, Mohammad Ramzan who remain in custody of Pakistan in centres worse than Guantanamo and Abu Gharaib Prison.
Our culture is what we are; it is a reflection of our actions because culture is not something external and nor does it exist independent of us. What we stand for, what we oppose and resist, what we believe in and how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives represent not only us but our culture as well. We cannot be judged apart from our culture and neither can our culture be judged apart from us. What we do and how we live represents our culture and if we do not live according to the essence of our culture, we cannot be faithful and true representatives of our Nation.
We represent our culture with our actions and not with our words and empty platitudes. To be a Baloch you have to live by the values that make you a Baloch. Our values and what we stand for makes us Baloch if clothes, Paag and beards made us Baloch then the ride would have been easy and we would have got our rights by now; it is your being a Baloch by conduct that frightens the enemy and he tries to annihilate us. As visits to a literature festival do not make us an intellectual similarly participating in culture days does not make us useful Baloch
So, make your choice with deep thought and reflection about how you want to be thought of by history specially Baloch history for if we while away our energies, time and money in things which at the end of the day leave not a mark on the lives and future of the nation we belong to and want to celebrate being its part. I have always believed that all born owe a debt to humanity and that debt has to redeemed by what you do for the humanity this also means that being born a Baloch you owe a debt to the Baloch Nation and it is your bounden duty to redeem that. If you think you are redeeming that debt by the way that these culture days are observed than there is hardly a hope that the Baloch Nation in not too distant a future will like the Indians of North America.
I take leave again with a question which we all need to answer with our conscience. Do we want to end up like the Native American on reservations along the different corridors that will naturally follow the CPEC flaunting Paags, Sadris, Chawats, Sarris, Pashks as Indians of USA flaunt the tepees, headdresses, moccasins etc with no rights over what belongs to us and should be ours?
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org