Even a year ago, our conversations hardly ever featured Balochistan, unless it was a foreign policy experts’ gathering.
It is suddenly all over social media, in pub banter, office watercooler talk. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a political kamikaze supporting the Baloch cause from the Red Fort on August 15, ordinary Indians have not stopped talking about it.
Balochistan is the open wound Pakistan has inflicted upon itself, on land it controversially occupied overriding a commitment of autonomy. There is an outbreak of newfound curiosity around it in India.
So much so that when you type the name of the once-forgotten province in Google search, the first option that appears is "Balochistan India". Posts by Balochistan activists like Brahamdagh Bugti, Mehran Marri and Karima Baloch are all over our social media timelines.
They are fast becoming familiar names. Those who knew or cared little about the vast province squeezed between Persian and Indian civilisations are rallying for Indian asylum to its activists in exile.
|Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti. (Photo credit: YouTube screengrab)|
Indians and the Baloch today regularly exchange greetings during festivals, share tweets, Insta photos and Facebook posts on Pakistani killings and atrocities. More and more TV time is being devoted to the subject. Civilisational connects like the Hinglaj Devi temple are being dug up and celebrated.
There are strong currents on the ground as well. Protests by the Balochistan diaspora and activists in exile across the world have seen NRIs participating, shouting slogans, holding up placards, sharing photos from Geneva, Berlin, New York or Toronto.
This morning, London will see protests against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which the Baloch see as a tool of ethnic cleansing and repression. Indians are likely to join.
One of the biggest drivers of this information war is Modi’s growing PR machinery of overseas Indians. The Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) are a potent force in this onslaught to bring Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan in global focus.
While demonstrations are spearheaded by Baloch people against Pakistan’s human rights violations, the OFBJP is supporting them and participating in their cause across the world, according to Vijai Chauthaiwale, a former microbiologist who looks after foreign affairs for the BJP.
Many mocked Modi for his grand gigs involving NRIs from New York’s Madison Square Garden to Dubai’s cricket stadium. But it seems to have awakened the sleeping soft power of our great diaspora, transforming it into a formidable public relations driver for the nation.
Although it is ostensibly a spontaneous friendship and collaboration at a local level in each city, it is difficult not to see the determined, relentless activity going on in the backdrop to make Pakistan’s best-kept secret a raging, global embarrassment.
Peaceful protests and an information war lend a formidable moral force to any movement. It elevates a ragtag local militant resistant to a full-blown, legitimate freedom struggle.
Peaceful struggles are much more likely to succeed than armed, bloody ones. Mahatma Gandhi’s India, Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar are just a few cases in point.
There is now a rising spectre that Pakistan may lose Balochistan, which comprises nearly half of Pakistan’s territory. With help from extremely well-connected Indians and a vibrant social media, the world is watching how the people of a mineral-rich region have been kept poor, tortured and killed by its illegitimate masters.
The Balochistan information onslaught, now fully and openly backed by not just the Indian government but by its people, is far more lethal than guns and tankers. Pakistan should worry.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)