The first time I met these Baloch businessmen, it was in a bazaar. All of them had shops on the same street. I was not a customer, but unlike other shopkeepers who chose to simply ignore me, these men offered me a place to sit, and some refreshments. I couldn’t have found a community more hospitable and more unique in the heart of Delhi. Through conversations on various issues, I was astonished to know that the Baloch community has been residing in New Delhi since late 1970s; I had only discovered them now.
The Baloch have been in contact with India ever since they left Central Asia and migrated to the land of Balochistan in 7th century AD. They started making inroads into Punjab and Sindh, mostly as supporting vassals of powerful invading armies. These powerful armies would deploy the Baloch as their fighting machines and in return would grant favours to Baloch sardars.
A lot of Baloch settled in India during the period of Mughals when the hero of Balochistan, Mir Chakar Khan Rind, accompanied Emperor Humayun to capture Delhi in 1555.
After winning the battle, Humayun bestowed Mir Chakar Khan Rind with estates and wealth, who later settled in Sahiwal (in present-day Pakistan). Mir Chakar Khan Rind’s tomb rests in Satgarha (also in present-day Pakistan).
The town of Farrukhnagar, in Gurugram district of Haryana, was established by a Baloch Chief of the name Faujdar Khan, who was made Governor by Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. Faujdar Khan eventually became the first Nawab of Farrukhnagar. During the 1857 revolt for independence, Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan, Faujdar Khan’s descendent and the last Nawab of Farrukhnagar, supported the fighters against the British. As a result, he was hanged till death by the British East India Company at Kotwali in Chandni Chowk on 23rd January 1858.
Descendants of the Baloch who came with the Mughals are settled in Uttar Pradesh, across various western districts such as Bareilly, Baghpat, Badaun, Bijnor, Shahjahanpur, Muradabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh etc. According to this article, Sonu Pathan, a resident of Bilochpura, Dist. Baghpat, UP, recounts, “The Mughal Emperor Babur came to India in 1526. He won the battle of Panipat in just four hours because he had muskets (type of a gun). Some of the topchis (artillerymen) in his army were from Balochistan.”
Post Partition, Balochistan became a part of Pakistan. Shortly after the creation of Bangladesh, i.e. from 1973 to 1978, Balochistan experienced a violent insurgency which left the region devastated. Tribes such as the Marris and Mengals who contributed the largest number of fighters to the insurgency suffered the most. More than 5000 Baloch fighters and thousands of innocent civilians were killed.
The havoc affected all communities in Balochistan and it was during this time that the Hindus of Balochistan thought of migrating to India. Until now, Baloch Hindus had not migrated in as large numbers to India as their Sindhi and Punjabi counterparts, because they were protected by Baloch Sardars such as Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti themselves. However, the exodus of Baloch Sardars left the Hindus in a vulnerable situation.
The first wave of Baloch migration came in 1978 and a couple of hundred Baloch families came to Delhi seeking refuge. The second wave came in 1993. These waves haven’t stopped as the Balochistan crisis has intensified, leading to continuous migration to this date.
In 2013, Lahore-based journalist, Akbar Notezai, quoted a Hindu intellectual, Sham Kumar, who recounted, “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 neighbourhood Hindus, are no longer living in this world, or they have become very old.”
Since 1979, while a lot of Baloch families have received Indian citizenship, there are a lot more who are still living on visa. Currently there are about 2000 families living in Madangir, Khanpur and Devli areas of New Delhi. Every year some hundred-odd families try to come and settle down in India.
The Late Mr Nandlal Sachdeva who came to India in 1978 was one of the tall figures of the community. Mr Arjan Das Khuranna, who like Mr. Nandlal, was also one of the first migrants to come to Delhi. Both Mr Nandlal and Mr Arjan Das strived hard to ensure that their community was not marginalised.
Mr Nandlal established the Balochistani Hindu Panchayat in 1990 to look after the affairs of community and bring out the grievances of the community to the government. He was also the President of the Panchayat from 1990 to 2011. The Panchayat is a voice for thousands of Baloch residing in India, be it to highlight issues of visa extensions and citizenship or to solve regular day-to-day problems. Currently, Mr Prem Sachdeva is the President of the Panchayat. The Hindu Baloch community in New Delhi has also built its own temple which is dedicated to Jhulelal. Most people of the community have come from Quetta, Mach, Dhadar, Kalat, Sibi and Mustang regions of Balochistan.
Language is the one of the most important channels enabling any community to pass on its legacy. Though the first generation of migrants spoke Balochi and Brahui, their descendants, who were born and brought up in Delhi, lost touch with both Balochi and Brahui. However, the languages continue to stay alive in India, thanks to the Baloch migrants who have been coming to India post 2000s. They keep the language alive and most of them speak multiple languages. Other than Balochi and Brahui, almost everyone speaks Sindhi at home.
It is fascinating to see such a unique community in the heart of Delhi. The Baloch stand out due to their ethnicity and sense of pride, but that the same time are mixed, just like sugar in milk, with other Indian communities. India has been a home to different communities. It has always been welcoming, and this is what makes India unique.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.