Nomadic Culture, Migration, and the Effects of Colonialism
Updated: May 11
In conversation with the Baloch tribes of Punjab
Many believe that only Baloch people come from Balochistan or Sindh, which is partially untrue. According to research, Many Baloch people migrated during the “Little Ice Age” to different parts of Punjab in diverse waves, including areas like Layyah, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Sahiwal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Mian Channu, Khanewal, Multan and many other cities and towns across the country. They are commonly referred to as “Punjabi Baloch.” For example, near a small town called Iqbal Nagar which is about 71.3 km away from Sahiwal, there are almost 5-6 jhookan (villages) of Baloch, which comprise primarily almost entirely the Jatoi’s, Rinds, and the Khosa’s.
According to the conversations with people from these villages, it is said that around 1555 CE, people started to migrate from Balochistan and started to settle in the Punjab Province of Pakistan because the climate there was really cold during that span, and the areas were almost unlivable. Many Balochi tribes settled in South Punjab and were said to be found by Humayun’s soldiers. A small town called Satgarha in Sahiwal has an ancient tomb of a Baloch chieftain Mir Chakar, who discovered a military territory of “The Rinds.”
During the early times, Balochi people were identified in areas of Punjab as the ones who had camels because they used to keep camels in large numbers.
As told by an acquaintance from 24/14L (A Jatoi Baloch village): “People used to come live in our villages, and they would know that we are Balochi just by seeing the countless camels tied in our fields and when we would tell an outsider that we are Baloch the first question that they would ask users to be ‘how many camels do you have?’.”
She also said, “In our teenage years, we girls used to ride our camels ourselves and set up races on the dusty roads…. those were good times.”
Another said, “During the early years of migration, the Baloch people came to these areas of Punjab when there was very little or no population, and there were only forests and tibbeyan or tibbe (small dunes stretched upon unlevelled lands) due to which they were also given the name of tibbeyan waale Baloch. They set up jhuggiyaan (roughly built-up houses) and started living like nomads, but when the British occupied India, they allotted lands to them, so the villages were formed. The feudalism started to run again.”
But slowly, as time started to pass, the camels were dissociated and the traditions and customs were given up; the folk dresses and paggs worn by Balochi men and women were nowhere to be seen. They started to wear the common shalwar kameez and everything was replaced. As generations started to grow, the language was forgotten and faded away hence the mixed-up language with bits of Punjabi and a patch of Seraiki and a little bit of Hindko, and a pinch of the Shahpuri dialect and a little bit of this and that, and this and the list goes on and on and never ends….
The only thing that remains of their home is their motto of “honor over life,” their anger, physique, and names. What you’ll find common between all of the elderly when you’re talking to them will be the inexplicable sadness and the homesickness in their eyes.
Years have passed, but they still hold their memories inside their chest; they remember their childhoods and youth like memorized verses. While talking to one sitting under a shady tree in his wheat fields on a hot mid-July summer day, he said after a long pause “putar hijrat kadi vi asaan nai hondi bhaawein jitni choti howe.” ‘Beta hijrat kabhi bhi asaan nahin hoti chaahe jitni bhi choti ho.’ (daughter, migration is never easy, even if it’s small).
They left Balochistan, but Balochistan never left them. Before going through the atrocities of the Partition of the subcontinent, they didn’t know that one would take place inside their hearts, constantly yearning to return. A few also said they were firm on returning, but they said there is no guarantee that life there would be easy. And unfortunately, they were right about it.
What we are witnessing today is even worse. Balochistan, our homeland, has been torn apart by wars and struggles. There are stains of blood upon the chaddar of every mother. Everywhere some eyes have been crying for years for a brother who didn’t find his way back home after going to the city, and what was left has been washed away by floods.
Or should we say:
Qasr-e-umar gawahi dega kese qurb sahe, Kesi kesi raat guzri hai hum par itne saalon se.
Balochistan has always been the land that never saw a day of peace, and the hearts that beat there have been running in an endless play of constant struggles, violence, and bloodshed that never ends. But these skies and these ruins will always be a witness, and these screams and cries of help will always keep haunting those accountable for turning it into a big wound in our history.
This blog has been penned by Miss Rida Fareed Baloch, after first-hand research amongst her community - ethnically Baloch and residents of Punjab.