By B. Raman
The Killing Fields of Balochistan have started shocking the conscience of the international community. Not only non-governmental human rights organisations, but even Governmental spokesmen of other countries—including a spokesperson of the US State Department in response to Tweets on the sufferings of the Balochs— have started getting over their hesitation in expressing their concern over the steady flow of reports from Balochistan about the atrocities committed by the Pakistani security forces on the people of Balochistan.
The atrocities have taken many forms. Brutal killing of the Baloch youth in false encounters for opposing State repression. Custodial deaths of Baloch youth rounded up by the security forces for interrogation on their suspected association with the on-going freedom struggle. Hundreds of missing Balochs, who were rounded up by the Security Forces for interrogation and who have since disappeared from public view and public conscience. Frequent recoveries of dead bodies of Baloch youth here, there, everywhere after they were allegedly tortured to death. Despite all this, the Baloch freedom struggle continues unabated.
Even the conscience of right-thinking sections of the Pakistani civil society have been shocked by the atrocities committed on the Balochs by the Pakistani security forces which bring to mind the atrocities committed on the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan before 1971.
Balochistan is the largest State in Pakistan with the smallest population as compared to East Pakistan which had more people than the then West Pakistan. The atrocities committed by the Pakistani Security Forces in East Pakistan led to the exodus into India of millions of Bengalis. They brought with them dramatic accounts of what was happening in East Pakistan shocking our conscience and that of the international community.
There has been no similar exodus of the Balochs. Balochs fleeing from the crushing boots of the Pakistani Security Forces have nowhere to go. They can’t flee into Iran which has been brutally suppressing a freedom struggle of its own Balochs. They can’t flee into Afghanistan which continues to be in a state of war. They can’t flee to other parts of Pakistan which will not accept them.
They find themselves bottled up in Balochistan — slowly and brutally killed one after the other without the rest of the world coming to know about the details. The Baloch diaspora in the West is very small. It is unable to play an effective and articulate role in drawing attention to the goings-on in Balochistan. It is trying bravely to do so, but with very limited success.
Even though the Western world has started showing signs of being disturbed by reports suggesting a systematic genocide of the Balochs by the Pakistani Security Forces, they are unable to go beyond expressing lip sympathy for the bleeding Balochs.
Against this background, the Balochs have been bewildered by the silence of Governmental and non-Governmental India. The Indian Government has been understandably silent because at a time when it has been trying to improve its relations with Pakistan it would find it difficult to come out openly in moral—if not material—support of the Balochs.
But why is the Indian civil society silent? Why is non-Governmental India silent? Why is the world of the Indian media silent? Why are well-known TV personalities like Barkha Dutt, Srinivasan Jain, Sonia Singh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Suhasini Haider, Rahul Kanwal, Karan Thapar, Arnab Goswami silent? Why is the Indian print media silent? Why are the opposition political forces observing a silence in the matter? Why has the Indian strategic community closed its eyes to Balochistan?
We do not have to be defensive just because some sections of our Jammu & Kashmir continue to be alienated. But we do not deal with the alienated sections of J & K the way the Pakistanis have been dealing with the Balochs. Despite occasional acts of violence, we have a thriving democracy in J&K. The Kashmiris are more prosperous than the people in many other parts of India. We have not imposed an Iron Curtain in J&K as Pakistan has imposed one in Balochistan. We ought to be proud of the way we have been dealing with the insurgencies in J & K and the North-East in a humanitarian manner despite occasional aberrations.
Let us not allow allegations that emanate from time to time from Pakistan regarding J&K inhibit us from expressing our solidarity with the suffering people of Balochistan. One understands that the Government cannot be articulate and active in this matter. But the civil society has to be articulate and active in giving vent to its shock and anguish over the reports of the suppression of the Balochs.
The Baloch youth have shown over the last four or five years that they are capable of keeping their freedom struggle sustained on their own without the need for external support. But they do need the moral solidarity of the Indian civil society. They deserve it.
The time for expressing our moral solidarity with them has come.