Bombay, The Baloch And The Karachi Connection By Tooba Masood

“Before that they lived a pretty nomadic life. Almost everyone worked in different quarries as stone-cutters – along with wadaris,

Bombay, the Baloch and the Karachi connection

By Tooba Masood

What do the Baloch in Karachi have in common with the Baloch in Mumbai? Dila teer bija.
Yes, the popular Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) track which is usually blaring on stereos during elections and rallies is a big hit among the Baloch across the border.
According to Vikalp Kumar, a final-year student from Delhi University, when the Baloch of Mumbai (Bombay) visit family and friends in Karachi, they usually bring back a CD or two of the PPP’s catchiest tracks to dance at weddings. It is the closest thing they have to cultural ties with their brothers in Pakistan.

Kumar’s research which focuses on the Balochi language – one of the lesser known languages in India, looks at how the Baloch came to Mumbai. During his two years of research he realised that the Baloch and the city they live in was intricately tied to Karachi. The Baloch migration to Sindh and specifically Karachi, he said, came in waves. The first when the Khan of Kalat ruled Karachi and then again in 1839 when the British took over Karachi.
During his presentation at the Karachi Conference on Friday, Kumar claimed that the Baloch came to Bombay in 1901 and kept coming into the city till the 1930s. These Baloch, he said, included those from Balochistan but also those who had settled in cities like Karachi – the urbanised Baloch.

In Bombay, he explained, the Baloch have three primary occupations – stone-cutters, stuntmen and drivers. “They limited themselves to Bombay city after the 1940s,” he said. “Before that they lived a pretty nomadic life. Almost everyone worked in different quarries as stone-cutters – along with wadaris, they took part in major railway projects such as manual drilling of tunnels, construction of bridges and also dams.” He added that by 1947, more than 2,000 Baloch had moved to Bombay from Karachi.
While talking about the Baloch settlers in Mumbai today, Kumar said they are about 3,000 in the city who live in slum areas such as Makranipara. “Many of them are famous stuntment,” he said. “One of the big ones was in Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger recently.”
Tracing roots
The Bombay Baloch can trace their origins to the Makran coast in Balochistan – most of them moved to Bombay were urbanised and detribalised Baloch from Karachi (who had themselves moved to Karachi decades ago). To this day the community retains matrimonial links with the Baloch of Karachi, not Balochistan.
Kumar’s paper which will be published soon is an effort to establish the Karachi connection of Bombay’s Baloch by using genealogies, personal histories and accounts to trace a migration pattern and linguistic analysis of the Balochi language as spoken in Mumbai.
The men behind Karachi
The second session of the Karachi conference also looked at the three men who made Karachi what it is today – Harchandrai Bharvani, Jamshed Mehta and GM Sayed. These three men have played an important part in developing the city since 1911 when Bharvani was elected as president of the Karachi Municipal Committee now known as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. The committee was upgraded to a corporation in 1922 by Jamshed Mehta, the city’s first mayor.
Mehta was mayor for a year and did a lot to keep the city’s street clean – he used to get them washed twice a day. The moderate views of these men have shaped Karachi as a cosmopolitan city. They developed and helped it evolve economically, socially and culturally.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2014.

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