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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Meet Anil Kumar Baloch – the ‘nomad’ from Balochistan, Afghanistan, Russia and Kazakhstan who has made Bharat his home

Anil Kumar Baloch has spent almost half of his life in Bharat. He spent the other half in Balochistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

Now that he has settled in Bharat, he is working in medical tourism as an interpreter and a medical tourist guide to people who come from half a dozen countries.

“I know Russian, Hindi, Sindhi, Baloch, and Pashto. I can also converse in Dari, which resembles Persian therefore I can interact with people from Iran as well”, says Anil with a sense of justified pride.

Struggle in New Delhi

Life wasn’t as easy in New Delhi. “My initial life in Delhi was a struggle. I tried my hand at many jobs – made credit cards, did odd jobs in shops, and worked in a bank. None was easy,” says Baloch.

One day, whiling away time with friends, an Afghan recommended he utilize his multilingual skills to help people coming from Afghanistan as they faced problems in interacting with medical staff.

“I began translation for Afghans coming to India for treatment. Some wanted my help in taking them around as a tourist guide also. There used to be one weekly flight from Afghanistan to India. I would rush to the airport in the morning and wait for the passengers to come out. I would ask them if they needed an interpreter or help in hospitals. If an Afghan family wanted help, I would come back with them in their cab as I often did not even have Rs two for a DTC bus ticket”.

Baloch says that he struggled for four-five years before a Tsunami of work hit him.

“After the initial five years of struggle, I began getting people from Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Iran. My friends in these countries would alert me to patients coming from there. Many patients upon recovery would stay back as tourists. I escorted them all over the country – Agra, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Jaipur. Once the Russians started coming to India for treatment, there was no time to sleep. I began to manage several people simultaneously. Finally, I was able to eat properly and pay rent as well”.

After the deluge of work came the coronavirus, followed by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Now Baloch spends his time wishing that the virus goes away and that the war comes to an end. He has had no work for the last two years. “Though flights have restarted, my work is slow to pick up. All the rich Afghans have fled to the West and things are uncertain because of the Russia-Ukraine war.”

Life in Balochistan

Baloch was born in Sibi, Balochistan, close to the Sindh province. Like most people from Balochistan, he continues to suffix Baloch to his name.

He completed his schooling in Sibi and went to Afghanistan for some time. He came back to Balochistan and then proceeded to Russia for higher education. “I had to spend the first year learning the Russian language. Then it was a five-year course in journalism from Almaty, Kazakhstan. As a student, I worked in Russia for some time. Finally, I came back to Quetta – the capital of Balochistan”.

He adds that many Baloch people from the Marri tribe went to Russia for further studies.

“I tried to find journalism work in Quetta but could not. I worked for private companies for two years but it was tough. I barely managed to earn enough for survival. Life was tough and scary in Quetta. Kidnappings, robbery, and killings were common. It was unsafe so I decided to come to India”, says Baloch.

He misses Quetta. Not just for its salubrious climate but also because his family is settled there.

“It is a valley like Kashmir with snowfall, clean water, and good air. It is good for your health with plenty of orchards and dry fruits. My hometown of Sibi is a desert close to Sindh where life is tough.

Anil says that his parents and siblings are now settled in Quetta. “There is nobody in Sibi even though we still have an ancestral home there. They do not want to migrate to India. They say, ‘kitne desh chodenge’ how many homes will we abandon? You know, resettling is not easy”.

The Baloch Conflict

In Balochistan, Anil Kumar Baloch is also known as Anil Marri.

“People can trace three generations of my ancestors because of my name. We were closely associated with Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and have spent generations with them. The Marris are fighting for land and pride because the Baloch people are not getting their due from Pakistan”, says Baloch.

Giving an example, he says: “When the massive attack by the Pakistani army took place on Nawab Akbar Bugti’s fort in Dera Bugti in 2005, there were hundreds of Hindus with him. Many Hindus and Muslims died but Akbar Bugti escaped. He was later killed by the Pakistani army in a helicopter gunship attack in 2006”.

Baloch says that the Baloch ‘quom’ is not getting its due. There is no gas, no water either. Places like Sui, which is the main hub for gas for all of Pakistan, and even Dera Bugti do not have enough schools.

“There is very little progress. I went to Pakistan in 2016. I saw development in Punjab – Lahore, Islamabad, and Multan. But in Balochistan, there is no development. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is worse because of conflict with the government. The Baloch community is struggling whether they live in Balochistan or outside it,” says Baloch.

He adds that the Baloch living abroad yearn to go back but the circumstances are such that they are forced to live in exile.

Baloch keeps getting calls on his mobile. In most of them, he speaks a variety of languages – Balochi or Sindhi. Some of the calls are from abroad as well.

Hindus in the subcontinent

Baloch says that even now Balochistan harbors Hindus. For generations, the Hindu families have been closely associated with the chiefs of local tribes – Marris, Bugtis, Mengals, and others.

Besides his hometown of Sibi, the Hindus are present in Macch, Noshki, Kalat and Quetta. They also follow the Baloch tribe system of christening their names – despite Hindu surnames they will affix the name of the local tribe or the area. Baloch says: “This is how people are identified and traced in Balochistan, through their tribe affiliation.”

Talking about the migration of Hindus from Balochistan, he says it has been happening continuously since 1947.

“After the Babri demolition, there was another wave of Hindu migration. The governments there allowed people to attack Hindus. Their houses were ransacked, shops looted and temples burnt. Things happened that we could not even think of. Hindus began to feel unsafe,” says Baloch.

He says that if anything happens in Bharat, there is a reaction in Pakistan. If nothing happens, even then the Hindus face problems. Baloch says that the Pakistan government talks about Indian Muslims but does not do anything to help them.

“All Hindus think of Hindustan only, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Bangladesh. All Hindus think of Bharat as their homeland. They feel safe in Bharat.

“You know any kind of Hindu can settle in India. The poor and the middle-class, the educated and the uneducated. ‘India hum sab ko apni sharan me le leta hai. Indian democracy USA se bhi aage hai kyonki yahan koi bhi aa ke rahe sakta hai’ (Bharat gives shelter to everyone. Bharat’s democracy is way ahead of the US because anyone can come and live here). You can’t think of moving to the US if you are poor. But in India, anyone can come and live,” says Baloch.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline and minor edits to conform to the HinduPost style guide)

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