Even as the Balochis of Mumbai rally for an OBC status, not much has changed for this community of migrant stonebreakers in over a century
By Anju Maskeri | mid-day 20-Nov-2016
In 1901, when the British Government brought approximately 5,000 people from Balochistan to Mumbai via Karachi to work as stone quarrying labourers, Anis Sohrab’s grandfather was one of them. “He was just 18 then. His engagement had broken off and he was looking to get away from home. So, he came to Mumbai on a steamer and started working as a labourer here,” says the 50-year-old. Back in the day, the grandfather built the Gaondevi temple near Sohrab’s Andheri (East) residence. “The then Viceroy, John Gilbert employed him to work on the Khandala railway tracks and tunnel,” he reveals.
Baluch are a group of tribes speaking the Baluchi language and estimated at about five million inhabitants in the province of Baluchistan in Pakistan and also neighbouring areas of Iran and Afghanistan. In Pakistan the Baluch people are divided into two groups, the Sulaimani and the Makrani separated from each other by a compact block of Brahui tribes. Some 70 percent of the total Baluch population lives in Pakistan and approximately 20 percent inhabit the coterminous region of southeastern Iran. The Baluch people are mostly concentrated in the province of Baluchistan in Paksitan. It is estimated that approximately 55% of the Baluchis live in Baluchistan and 27% reside in Sind. Despite Baluchistan’s huge mineral wealth, Baluchistan is the poorest region of Pakistan. Much of the population is malnourished, illiterate and semi-destitute; living in squalid housing with no electricity or clean drinking water.