When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the Red Fort on Independence Day, a new word caught the attention of mainstream India. While Pakistan has been criticizing India for spurring the Balochistan movement, no Indian Prime Minister has retaliated in any kind but refusing the claim, until Modi. He spoke of the human right violations, mass killings and disappearances in the western province of Balochistan. The troubled province, then found a voice in the world’s largest democracy.
Following the assertion by Modi, India raised the issue of the Balochistan movement, for the first time ever in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). With a packed international calendar, and Sushma Swaraj addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in a couple of days, India’s new-found voice is expected to create some repercussions in its relationship with the neighboring Pakistan.
Leading Balochistan’s freedom movement is Brahumdagh Bugti, the President of Baloch Republican Party and the grandson of Akbar Bugti, the Baloch nationalist leader who fought for the separation of the Balochistan state. He took over from the senior Bugti, and went into exile in Afghanistan and has reportedly survived two assassination attempts by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and has been under the constant surveillance of the intelligence agency of Pakistan.
He made the headlines this week for formally approaching India seeking asylum not only for himself but for the people of Balochistan as well. In an exclusive interview to a digital news website, Bagti said, “myself, my family and other people from Balochistan for whom we are requesting that Indian open its doors.”
While he is currently located in Switzerland, he has previously formally requested for political asylum in both 2011 and 2016. He has said that he feels like he has been put in an “golden cage” where his security has been assured but he has not been able to meet leaders from Europe due to lack of travel documents.
He also remarked that while a few other Balochistan leaders have been granted asylum in countries like France and Geneva, he has not been able to secure asylum and is dependent on India to do justice to his cause. Some media reports suggest that he has applied for an Indian passport in 2015, while a few others claim that he already held an Indian passport by 2010.
While Modi’s open support has helped the Balochistan movement and Bugti in particular by showing the world that they have the support of the world’s largest democracy, the bigger question is if this blantant show of support will come to bite India.