Washed away by the tide of history – By Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun children are made to read and revere Mohammad bin Qasim, Mahmud Ghaznavi, the Mughals and the heroes of Pakistani wars with India while nothing is taught about their own history, heroes or culture as if these nations had no history, no heroes, and no culture prior to August 14, 1947

When colonisers occupy a place, as in Australia, the Americas, Balochistan, Kurdistan and Palestine, the indigenous people are dispossessed and denied their inherent rights exercised since eons. The colonists rely primarily on force; however, to ensure permanent supremacy they try to eradicate their indigenousness, culture and history. They employ the lethal tool of demographic changes to physically occupy, dominate and exploit the new land. Needless to remind that Jinnah ordered forcible annexation of Balochistan in March 1948.

February 2008 saw Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, apologise specially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, communities and country; ostensibly to civilise them. John Moriarty, an aboriginal activist, termed that forcible removal a ‘cultural genocide’.

Apologising to the Aborigines, Kevin Rudd expressed sorrow for “the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, for the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, and for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture.” However, this apology did not go far enough because it overlooked the whole sorry mess of colonialism in Australia based on ‘terra nullius’ (unoccupied or un-owned land) principle.

He articulated the agony of the sufferers thus: “There is something terribly primal about these first-hand accounts, the pain is searing, it screams from the pages, the hurt the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental humanity.” To understand the pain of the mothers and families of those who are abducted, tortured beyond recognition and dumped every day in Balochistan and those who have been repressed, killed, maimed and tortured during the last 64 years, multiply this pain a million times over.

The colonisers’ legal systems abet in their crime. In Australia until 1994 the courts continued to uphold the notion that the Aboriginal peoples had possessed no property rights in 1788, thus upholding Britain’s right to declare sovereignty over it under the legal fiction of terra nullius. Greed makes the colonisers simply disregard people and their rights to see only the bounty of the land.

Native title claims in Australia have been effectively limited by the racist demand that Aboriginal claimants prove that their cultural traditions of land inheritance have remained in place, unchanged, over the entire period of colonisation. Yet when evidence proves it, they are still brazenly denied rights. In 2002, the mixed-ancestry Yorta Yorta people lost their native title case on the dehumanising grounds that any entitlement they had to claim Aboriginal traditions had been “washed away by the tide of history”.

Unremitting repression, discrimination and rejection permanently scar the victims’ psyche. Lorna Lippmann, a social historian and Aboriginal rights advocate, observes that the Aboriginal peoples expect to be despised, rejected, or ignored, resulting not only in their distrust of the whites but also in a low self-image, with long-term negative consequences for social, psychic, and physical well-being. Can any apology ever undo such detrimental effects on the victims’ psyche?

Canada also apologised to the ‘natives’ in June 2008 for more than a century of abuses at boarding schools set up to assimilate its indigenous peoples. Beginning in 1874, 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Métis children in Canada were forcibly enrolled in the 132 boarding schools run by Christian churches on behalf of the federal government in an effort to integrate them into society. Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted: “These objectives were based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal.”

Many survivors alleged abuse by headmasters and teachers, who stripped them of their culture and language. This left them disconnected from their families, communities and feeling ‘ashamed’ of being born native. Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations (the body representing Natives) said, “They tried to kill the Indian in the child, to eradicate any sense of Indian-ness from Canada. The attempts to erase our identities hurt us deeply.”

If you take a deeper look at what Pakistan has been doing here since 1947, it is exactly what the Australian and Canadian Governments did then. Turkey and Iran practice the same. The Baloch, Sindhis and Pashtuns have not been put into special schools as was done there because the education system here is in its entirety a special school. It is designed to kill the indigenousness in the child; to erase the indigenous culture so that the rulers’ culture can be imposed. This is what is being practiced here. Jinnah had cast the first stone when he imposed Urdu on the Bengalis, Baloch, Sindhis and Pashtuns.

The Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun children are made to read and revere Mohammad bin Qasim, Mahmud Ghaznavi, the Mughals and the heroes of Pakistani wars with India while nothing is taught about their own history, heroes or culture as if these nations had no history, no heroes, and no culture prior to August 14, 1947. The Pakistani state has imposed its ideology, culture and language at the cost of the indigenous people and this blatantly is cultural genocide.

Ironically, the Pakistani state — instead of regretting this transgression — considers it an achievement. Forced to learn in alien languages, the Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun masses’ children are massively handicapped and therefore cannot compete with the elite education system’s products. Hence an ever widening gap between different regions and strata of the population is created, which also exacerbates the sense of alienation that initially arises from repression and economic discrimination.

Demographic changes were relentlessly attempted but the Baloch people’s resistance thwarted them. In November 2010, the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Aslam Bhootani disclosed that the federal government pressurised the Balochistan government to lease 70,000 acres to Arab princes. Had the Baloch not physically resisted since 1948, Balochistan would have been swamped by all and sundry. Only the fear of a backlash keeps demographic changes in abeyance.

The Baloch have decided to not to docilely accept the position that their rights have been “washed away by the tide of history” and this is exactly what they are fighting for here and in Iran. Because of the fierce determination with which they have resisted the attempts to curb their human, political, cultural, historical and economic rights, the tide of history will not be able to wash away Baloch rights.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

Courtesy: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=201211\story_1-1-2012_pg3_2

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