As Pakistan continuously pressured India over the Kashmir unrest issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the neighbouring country a fitting reply from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day raising alleged atrocities by Pakistan in its largest province Balochistan, PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Baloch leaders, who have been fighting for secession from Pakistan for decades, welcomed PM Modi’s move and intensified their ‘struggle for independence’. The last 30 days saw a surge in protests by Baloch activists and citizens living in exile.
A day after PM Modi’s speech, the chairman of Baloch National Movement (BNM), Khalil Baloch, said his speech was a positive development and that he was hopeful of international community following the example. PM Modi also received plaudits from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who said that he ‘appreciated and understood PM’s remark’.
While voices of support found echo in various parts of the region, there were also protests against India and PM Modi organised by local ministers. Also, Pakistan lashed out at India and accused it of trying to create unrest in the region.
However, to Pakistan’s despair, protests broke out in different parts of the country as well as the world. On August 14, which is also celebrated as Independence day in Pakistan, Baloch activists chanted anti-establishment slogans and burnt the national flag.
In addition, UK-based Baloch and Sindhi activists came together for the first time and protested outside Chinese embassy against the construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). On the other hand, anti-Pakistan and pro-Modi slogans were also raised in Germany. Similar protests surfaced in different parts and Baloch Republican Party activists raised slogans against UNO’s silence and human rights’ violation in the region on September 11 at Busan in South Korea.
News agency ANI reported on Wednesday that Balochis living in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh also planned to protest in New Delhi. On the same day, the series of protests which began after PM Modi’s speech reached the UN headquarters in New York city. The protest was led by Free Balochistan Movement (FBM).
Meanwhile, extending further support to the Baloch population after PM’s speech, the central government on August 31 gave a go-ahead to broadcasting programmes in Balochi language through All India Radio. Merely a day after this announcement, reports came that Pakistan had imposed a cap of less than six per cent airtime on Indian television channels from October. However, some reports also suggested that the authority concerned had banned telecast of Indian TV channels through DTH services.
The controversy also saw exchange of harsh statements between leaders from both the sides as former Pak interior minister accused India of trying to create a situation like East Pakistan in Balochistan region. Lieutenant General Amir Riaz of Pakistan rangers went a step ahead and accused India of instigating terror in Balochistan. While in India, Union Minister Jitendra Singh iterated that Balochistan was an important security concern for the country.
The Indian government suffered a setback on September 13 when US made it clear that it did not support the independence of Balochistan. The remark came from spokesperson John Kirby who said that US supported unity and integrity of Pakistan.
The entire episode took another turn when India finally took up the issue at United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Wednesday. India’s ambassador to the UN, Ajit Kumar, also said that “Pakistan is a hub for global terror export and it continued its illegal occupation of large territory in Jammu and Kashmir”. Earlier, Pakistan had raised alleged atrocities by India in Kashmir at the same platform.
In the month since Narendra Modi became first Indian Prime Minister to have raised the contentious issue from Red Fort, India has brought international attention to the Baloch freedom struggle. While Pakistan has not yet directly responded to this move by India, it would be crucial to see how things transpire now.