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Assalamu alaikum. New member here from Khanabadosh community

Awara Pardesi

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Pakistan
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United Kingdom
My name here is Awara Pardesi and these are not empty words to me, they are my reality.

I belong a tribe of gypsies and our origin is with the untouchable Dalit caste and I am very proud of this. My tribe is caught between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan but now since we can’t get Indian visa and Afghan removed us, we are more comfortable in Pakistan and as Pakistanis

Unlike most people from our community, my family was in better position and I am educated and settled in the UK since last 3 years and I left Pakistan in 2009. Many of our relatives do not have any shanakhti cards.

You can ask me any question you like. I had written a long message on detail about the condition of my people but let us first start with introduction!

I am happy to be here
 
My name here is Awara Pardesi and these are not empty words to me, they are my reality.

I belong a tribe of gypsies and our origin is with the untouchable Dalit caste and I am very proud of this. My tribe is caught between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan but now since we can’t get Indian visa and Afghan removed us, we are more comfortable in Pakistan and as Pakistanis

Unlike most people from our community, my family was in better position and I am educated and settled in the UK since last 3 years and I left Pakistan in 2009. Many of our relatives do not have any shanakhti cards.

You can ask me any question you like. I had written a long message on detail about the condition of my people but let us first start with introduction!

I am happy to be here
Welcome my friend. As a natural Pakistani you are more than most welcome here.
 
My name here is Awara Pardesi and these are not empty words to me, they are my reality.

I belong a tribe of gypsies and our origin is with the untouchable Dalit caste and I am very proud of this. My tribe is caught between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan but now since we can’t get Indian visa and Afghan removed us, we are more comfortable in Pakistan and as Pakistanis

Unlike most people from our community, my family was in better position and I am educated and settled in the UK since last 3 years and I left Pakistan in 2009. Many of our relatives do not have any shanakhti cards.

You can ask me any question you like. I had written a long message on detail about the condition of my people but let us first start with introduction!

I am happy to be here
Welcome man..

Although it doesn't matter to many of us, what religion do you follow?

Also, where do you guys live mostly in Pakistan? How did you get your education when you were always on the go? How did you apply and get a Shanakhti Card? When was the last time you visited India and Afghanistan without Visa? How do you live in UK (like gypsy's or normal settled people)?

So many questions.. but lets start with your story.. I am really interested in hearing from a rare gypsy of Pakistan..
 
Yeah please do post about your people and your ways. We know nothing about it.

like how do you earn money? what do you do about healthcare? why do you keep travelling?

Do you have any link with gypsies in the UK, like the Roma?
 
Welcome man..

Although it doesn't matter to many of us, what religion do you follow?

Also, where do you guys live mostly in Pakistan? How did you get your education when you were always on the go? How did you apply and get a Shanakhti Card? When was the last time you visited India and Afghanistan without Visa? How do you live in UK (like gypsy's or normal settled people)?

So many questions.. but lets start with your story.. I am really interested in hearing from a rare gypsy of Pakistan..

Thanks for your interest!

We are used to being questioned about religion so its ok. We are Alhamdulillah Sunni Muslim, from my father’s side origin Mosali and Kotana tribe. Now all of us speak Pashto and Urdu but our elders could speak Punjabi and Rajasthani

Gypsies are found all over Pakistan but there are regional and religious differences and all have their own language and culture but are related. As Pashto-speaking, we are based in KPK but some relatives are also in Punjab and Karachi.

We stay in one place for a few years at a time unlike other tribes that move around more frequently so I was able to stay in one school for some time and then enroll in different schools wherever we went but mainly stayed within Pindi/Islamabad for almost fifteen years on and off. My father’s family have also been in Karachi for a long time and some in Lahore and Jhelum but we do not meet them often. Others are in Peshawar and Swat. Our relatives in Punjab speak fluent Punjabi

In the early 2000s we got the shanakhti cards but we do not have the latest biometric fingerprints, only my brother has that because he travels between Islamabad and Karachi and Middle East for work

I visited India when I was very young, maybe 5. I think 2 or 3 times and this was possible because of business visa (we are sawdagar) and bribes. But now we cannot get a visa and even my mother, who was born there. My father went there a few years ago on work visa but that is the only way now, if someone in India invites us then we can go

Afghanistan my father and grandfather used to travel to frequently, mostly Kabul until 2004-5 and I have seen Jalalabad, Khost and Kabul. The Afghan government exiled some people of our tribe because they didn’t has tazkira (Afghani ID card) and they dont want to give it to us. We are very heartbroken by this because my grandparents were from there and we are influenced by Afghan culture

In UK I have seen a new face of poverty. It is arguably better but different. Here we are also gypsies, we are gypsies wherever we go and whatever we do. I am attemtping to stay where I am because I am fed up of wandering but it is not easy. My family are not with me

Here I mostly stay away from other Desi people to be honest. I do not speak proper Pashto or Urdu anymore because I feel under pressure to speak good English with a native accent

Thanks for your interest!

We are used to being questioned about religion so its ok. We are Alhamdulillah Sunni Muslim, from my father’s side origin Mosali and Kotana tribe. Now all of us speak Pashto and Urdu but our elders could speak Punjabi and Rajasthani

Gypsies are found all over Pakistan but there are regional and religious differences and all have their own language and culture but are related. As Pashto-speaking, we are based in KPK but some relatives are also in Punjab and Karachi.

We stay in one place for a few years at a time unlike other tribes that move around more frequently so I was able to stay in one school for some time and then enroll in different schools wherever we went but mainly stayed within Pindi/Islamabad for almost fifteen years on and off. My father’s family have also been in Karachi for a long time and some in Lahore and Jhelum but we do not meet them often. Others are in Peshawar and Swat. Our relatives in Punjab speak fluent Punjabi

In the early 2000s we got the shanakhti cards but we do not have the latest biometric fingerprints, only my brother has that because he travels between Islamabad and Karachi and Middle East for work

I visited India when I was very young, maybe 5. I think 2 or 3 times and this was possible because of business visa (we are sawdagar) and bribes. But now we cannot get a visa and even my mother, who was born there. My father went there a few years ago on work visa but that is the only way now, if someone in India invites us then we can go

Afghanistan my father and grandfather used to travel to frequently, mostly Kabul until 2004-5 and I have seen Jalalabad, Khost and Kabul. The Afghan government exiled some people of our tribe because they didn’t has tazkira (Afghani ID card) and they dont want to give it to us. We are very heartbroken by this because my grandparents were from there and we are influenced by Afghan culture

In UK I have seen a new face of poverty. It is arguably better but different. Here we are also gypsies, we are gypsies wherever we go and whatever we do. I am attemtping to stay where I am because I am fed up of wandering but it is not easy. My family are not with me

Here I mostly stay away from other Desi people to be honest for various reasons. I do not speak proper Pashto or Urdu anymore because I feel under pressure to speak good English with a native accent

Yeah please do post about your people and your ways. We know nothing about it.

like how do you earn money? what do you do about healthcare? why do you keep travelling?

Do you have any link with gypsies in the UK, like the Roma?

Thanks.

I am not working for anyone at the moment but I do various jobs whatever I can get and sell certain speciality items with my friend. My education is basic, I don’t have any degree so I do not have a professional carreer

Free healthcare is a great thing, provided by the NHS

I have met some of them and visited Romania. There are so many in the UK now.They are originally from us but have been seperated for thousands of years

It is not easy to settle down anywhere permanently when you have been travelling since the day you were born

What religion you guys follow, if I may ask?

Some gypsies in Pakistan are Hindu, others are Shia. We are Sunni


Thanks!
 
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Hey brother,, you're most welcome
I have met a few nomads in Multan. They normally are shepherds and hard working people. And many of them are into singing. Is Reshma related to you since I heard she was also from the nomads.

Thanks brother

Our people are definitely established in Multan region and yes, Reshma and Naseebo Lal and also Zarsanga, Ustad Gulzaman in Pashto and many others are from our communities. We are known for our folk music in many languages

Most of us no longer have animals but those who do are the real nomads!
 
Thanks for your interest!

We are used to being questioned about religion so its ok. We are Alhamdulillah Sunni Muslim, from my father’s side origin Mosali and Kotana tribe. Now all of us speak Pashto and Urdu but our elders could speak Punjabi and Rajasthani

Gypsies are found all over Pakistan but there are regional and religious differences and all have their own language and culture but are related. As Pashto-speaking, we are based in KPK but some relatives are also in Punjab and Karachi.

We stay in one place for a few years at a time unlike other tribes that move around more frequently so I was able to stay in one school for some time and then enroll in different schools wherever we went but mainly stayed within Pindi/Islamabad for almost fifteen years on and off. My father’s family have also been in Karachi for a long time and some in Lahore and Jhelum but we do not meet them often. Others are in Peshawar and Swat. Our relatives in Punjab speak fluent Punjabi

In the early 2000s we got the shanakhti cards but we do not have the latest biometric fingerprints, only my brother has that because he travels between Islamabad and Karachi and Middle East for work

I visited India when I was very young, maybe 5. I think 2 or 3 times and this was possible because of business visa (we are sawdagar) and bribes. But now we cannot get a visa and even my mother, who was born there. My father went there a few years ago on work visa but that is the only way now, if someone in India invites us then we can go

Afghanistan my father and grandfather used to travel to frequently, mostly Kabul until 2004-5 and I have seen Jalalabad, Khost and Kabul. The Afghan government exiled some people of our tribe because they didn’t has tazkira (Afghani ID card) and they dont want to give it to us. We are very heartbroken by this because my grandparents were from there and we are influenced by Afghan culture

In UK I have seen a new face of poverty. It is arguably better but different. Here we are also gypsies, we are gypsies wherever we go and whatever we do. I am attemtping to stay where I am because I am fed up of wandering but it is not easy. My family are not with me

Here I mostly stay away from other Desi people to be honest. I do not speak proper Pashto or Urdu anymore because I feel under pressure to speak good English with a native accent





Thanks.

I am not working for anyone at the moment but I do various jobs whatever I can get and sell certain speciality items with my friend. My education is basic, I don’t have any degree so I do not have a professional carreer

Free healthcare is a great thing, provided by the NHS

I have met some of them and visited Romania. There are so many in the UK now.They are originally from us but have been seperated for thousands of years

It is not easy to settle down anywhere permanently when you have been travelling since the day you were born



Some gypsies in Pakistan are Hindu, others are Shia. We are Sunni



Thanks!

Thank you for sharing this information. Being born and lived in Peshawar, the only interaction I have had with nomads were the ones travelling with their camels. I was always curious about them. But here you provided much insight into this neglected community which quenched my thirst. Welcome to the forum and have a nice time.
 
This is a long post which explains our situation in detail. Some of the things I have said are not pleasant but this is the truth. The gypsies and the non-Muslim minorities (Punjabi Christians, Sindhi Hindus) of Pakistan share the same blood so even if we are no longer brothers of religion, we are still and always will be blood brothers, which is why I include them as part of our ethnicity.

The Pakistan that Quaid-e-Azam dreamed of would have been a great place for us to be but unfortunately the Pakistan of today is not. But by working together, we can make it our home, a loving and happy place. The future is in our hands. Pakistan hai hamara!

I am a proud gypsy descendant of Dalit origin and this is my message for fellow Pakistanis, Indians and Afghans. Most of my family were formerly stateless and itinerant but now we are trying to settle. Currently my family is divided. Our tribe is trapped between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I and my family are extremely fortunate to have been educated and to have found a way out of the hell that most of our community members will never be able escape from.

As a broken and vagrant people, we have been robbed of our collective identities and dignities. We are the original, indigenous inhabitants of the land and now we are waking up. We can no longer stay quiet and humiliated. The time has come for us to regain what we have lost; our names, our traditions and our rightful place in society.

Our history is not any less important than that of others who are perceived to be ‘higher’ than us. How much more degradation and ostracism can we tolerate? The most down-trodden either must rise up or prepare to be crushed once and for all, and disappear without a trace, like so many other obscure depressed classes already have vanished into oblivion.

The existence and persistence of the Hindu Caste System in Pakistan must be acknowledged by the populace and its leadership. It is not enough to merely state that ‘we are Muslim and we don’t discriminate based on caste’ because this would simply mean turning a blind eye to the continued suffering of millions of Pakistanis who are either citizens (Muslims), second class citizens (Non-Muslims) and non-citizens (Gypsies). Islam does not recognise castes but Muslims in South Asia and elsewhere certainly do.

Those who deny the existence of the caste system are either privileged, bigoted or blinded and brainwashed. One only has to venture out and observe. Unlike neighbouring India, caste and class often go hand in hand in the context of Pakistan. While economic prosperity and upward mobility generally does help communities improve their socio-economic situation, sometimes their past does not let them get away that easily. Such is the legacy of caste in South Asia where humans are deprived of basic human rights.

From my own research, I believe the ultimate origin of our people is from the Bhil or Bheel tribe, many of whom are still adhere to Hindu and aboriginal traditions and are found in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, having their own group of languages and culture. Some are found in Sindh and Cholistan and are Hindu, speaking Marwari-Rajasthani. They are nomadic or itinerant and are known for their colourful dress and vibrant folk music and dance performances. They are a proud people unaffected by what outsiders think of them, but they are poor and vulnerable.

According to myth and legend, the ancestor of the Chuhra caste was a man from the Bhil tribe. The Chuhra are also called the Bhangi and both names have long since become insults in many Indian and Pakistani languages. Those Chuhra who remained unconverted later became assimilated by the Hindu Arya Samaj movement and call themselves Valmiki or Balmiki, after the author of the Ramayana. The Chuhra in Muslim-majority areas call him Bala Shah and their religious identity as Bala Shahi. Those who became Sikhs were called Mazhabi or Rangretra.

Some became Muslim and were called Nau-Muslim or Deendar. After converting to Islam, the names Musalli and Kotana or Kurtana were also given to them in the Hindko and Saraiki speaking regions of Punjab, respectively. They later spread to adjoining Pashto-speaking regions and were sometimes called Shahi Khel. They became involved in farming and agricultural work though some also continued their traditional role as sweepers or grave diggers but gave up eating carrion. Some of the Kutana and some Musalli were also renowned musicians.

The majority of the caste however, went through a mass conversion to Christianity which continued up until the 1930s and even after Partition and today form the bulk of the Christian population of the Punjab, both in India and Pakistan. The Christian Chuhra changed their name to Isai and Masih, both of which also now have negative connotations in Pakistan and are symonymous with the word ‘sweeper’; their main occupation. All descendants of the Chuhra remain marginalized to some extent, but those who are non-Muslims face double discrimination in Pakistan.

Those Chuhra who lived in cities were often compelled to become full-time sweepers but those living in rural areas were mostly involved in agriculture, or were divided into sweepers/scavengers and farm workers, though there was some overlap between the two. Their women also worked. The barbers were also considered to be part of the Chuhra and they were one of the only castes to serve them, unlike the Mochi (cobblers), Dhobi (washermen) and others. They lived far away from others in the village and had their own wells.

All of these groups have migrated in several waves to various locations and some continue to be itinerant. The name Doom, in the forms Dam and Dum, is derived from the sound of the drum, with drumming being a traditional occupation of these people. In Pakhtun regions, it was once used for a guild of entertainers, smiths and barbers but has since also become an insult, with ‘damtob’ describing acts perceived to be non-Pakhtun such as singing and dancing. Consequently, nobody calls themself a Doom in Afghanistan and the Pakhtun areas of Pakistan.

Some clans have migrated to Afghanistan and Central Asia and even to other parts of the former USSR, including Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Many of these groups use names that are similar to the names of several castes or tribes in the Indian subcontinent, for example, Jogi, Qalandar, Qawal, Jola (Julaha; Weaver) and Changar, although they do not necessarily remember or acknowledge their Indian origins. The Doom (Dom) then migrated even further west to Arabia, North Africa, Turkey and then diverged into the Lom (Armenia) and Rom/Roma (Europe and later America) branches.

From Laghman in Afghanistan some Musalli who were joined by the Changar and Chingar tribes migrated to Central Asia around 1880 and one of their ethnic names is Parya, possibly deriving from ‘Paharia’, with reference to Laghman being a mountainous province. Their language is either Marwari, Haryanvi or Braj Bhasha with influence from the Dardic Southern Pashayi, which is the local language of Laghman. The Musalli also spoke Hindko, however.

In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan they called themselves, or were called by others, Afghan, Laghmani and Hindustani and are known for selling naswar so locals call them ‘Naswar-selling Afghans’ or ‘Indian or Afghan gypsies’ and ‘Black gypsies’ or even ‘Monkey gypsies’, due to their performing with animals, in order to distinguish them from the more established gypsy groups who have been in the region much longer, such as the Jogi, the Qalandar and the Qawal.

Jat and Qawal are insults in Afghanistan. Jat specifically refers to four groups that share a common language and historical origin. They are the Jalali, the Pikraj (Pakki Raj), the Shadibaz (Shadiwan) and the Vangawala. They came to Afghanistan almost 200 years earlier due to famine and feuds.

Some claim to be of Baloch ethnicity but their more recent origins are traced to Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab and this is reflected by their language. They call it Inku (Hindko) or Jataki. It is a mixture of Sindhi, Multani, Saraiki and Punjabi as spoken in the Mianwali district.

Recently, the Vangawala (Bangriwal or Churiwal in Pashto and Dari) were forcibly relocated by the Afghan government to an unknown location, possibly Pakistan, due to their lacking identity documents. The Pikraj (Churifurosh) have since taken over the monopoly on the bangle trade throughout Afghanistan and they have now established firm roots in Kabul and Jalabad. They were originally in the North but have spread out and taken over territory from the Vangawala, and it is unclear whether any Jalali, Shadibaz and Vangawala remain in Afghanistan.

These groups, along with millions of people from other Afghan ethnic groups, sought refuge in Pakistan during war time. Some also historically travelled frequently between the two countries to purchase and sell goods and maintained links in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not Central Asia.

The nomadic or itinerant Kutana tribe in Pakistan is said to migrate between Punjab, Sindh and Pakhtun areas. They are invisible to the mainstream Pakistani society who lumps together all itinerant peripatetics and pastoralist nomads under the Urdu/Persian blanket term ‘Khanabadosh’.

Almost everywhere they went, the situation became such that most people of these castes themselves use ethnonyms as pejoratives. They have never been able to escape their origins, despite repeated attempts at moving away and adopting a new name. Growing up, I have heard my own mother and aunt use Chamar, Bhangi, Chirimar, Chuhra and possibly others.

I knew from context that these referred to vagabonds or beggars and other ‘street people’ (sadak-chhap) but I once asked my mother what Bhangi means and she replied that it means a ‘toilet cleaner’. Thus in Pakhtun lands, the Dom ethnicity and Domari or Domaki language did not surivive as it did elsewhere.

Some names of ethnic groups with neutral or positive associations like Musalli survived, probably due to being connected to various Arabic etymologies. Given as either ‘one who is praying’ or ‘one who gives advice’ and also ‘little Muslim’, the name is certainly of Arabic origin. Some Musali in Khost, Afghanistan claim their original appellation is Mosuli and that they came from Mosul in Iraq centuries ago.

The meaning of Chuhra is often given as one who removes filth and as low caste. It is also used in the context of ‘cheap’ or low class. Some even claim that there are no Chuhra people, only actions that are perceived as ‘Chuhra’ (Chuhray kam). Thus everybody denies being a Chuhra in modern Pakistan. It is no longer an ethnic identity, the same happened earlier to Bhangi.

Unlike in parts of India, the name Bhangi is not an ethnic identity in modern Pakistan but this term is used as an insult. In Punjabi, it is pronounced ‘Pangi’ and in Kashmir, ‘Bangi’. This name does not derive from the cannabis plant (bhang/pang/bang) as many would imagine, but rather, from an archaic Indian word meaning ‘broken’, similar to the word Dalit in the context of the Indian Untouchables.

All of these groups were/are multilingual, speaking the dominant local or official languages of the places where they reside or migrate, and they also often had a secret language which outsiders are supposed not to understand. Often this secret language is their mother tongue, for example Parya and Inku being Indic languages, would not be easily understood by the majority of people in Afghanistan or Central Asia.

The use of secret languages, cants or argots is common among marginalized groups everywhere. The Changar of Pakistan have a secret vocabulary, as did the ancestors of the Chuhra who historically had a specialized, hidden lexicon that was designed to be totally unintelligible to strangers, for use when speaking of crimes like cattle poisoning, making the crimes hard to trace. It is unknown whether this Chuhra language survived or what it was called, or even if it had a name.

Related to the Chuhra, but sepeate from them, are the gypsies and gypsy-like groups. In Afghanistan they are called Jat, which is not to be confused with the agricultural Punjabi Jatt ethnicity of India and Pakistan. They probably acquired this name by association with the Jatt clans and when the first group migrated, they used it as their identifier due to the positive or neutral connotations of the name in the Punjabi context. Subsequently, as has happened to other ethnonyms, the name became tarnished and today is also an insult, as are Qawal, Jogi, Kutana, Doom, Chuhra and Bhangi.

The Kutana or Kurtana (also Kotana, Kutan, Kutanree, or Kwatanay) ethnic identity is also dying. They overwhelming speak Pashto. Pakhtuns in Bannu and Lakki Marwat mock them for their dark complexions and some perceive them as being of African origin though this is very unlikely. Popular singer Khan Tehsil and his associate Zarsanga, the queen of Pashto folk music, are said by locals of their region to be Kutana, though Zarsanga says her father was a Bhittani Pakhtun. Other Kutana deny being (culturally) any different from the Pakhtun majority.

Another well-known musician, singer and composer of traditional Pashto music is the popular Ustad Gul Zaman, of Afghanistan. He is from the Musali or Mosuli tribe (of Khost). He and his children are among the few who are educated and hold identity documents. The Afghan government has apparently decided not to issue the Musalli with ID cards in order to ‘prevent further security risks’. Like the Vangawala Jat most recently, they are at risk of being forcibly relocated by authorities.

Common occupations of various gypsy groups, both men and women, include peddling bracelets, cloth, and haberdashery, juggling, conjuring, snake charming and proscribing spells against snake bites and scorpion stings. Often, the men would travel great distances to buy goods for the women to resell, such as bangles.

A few later became shopkeepers selling cloth; others were engaged in peddling used shoes, religious posters and perfumes on the streets. The trinkets (sawda) are purchased in urban markets and peddled for a profit. As traders in trinket these Jat are known as sawdagar, trinket peddler.

Some families were engaged in picking fruit and a few others had become full-time farmers. Some are known as professional beggars and musicians. Others trained and led animals such as monkeys, bears and goats to perform tricks, dance and engage in acrobatics. Some women were also fruit peddlers.

Others were engaged in buying and selling donkeys and horses and in the repair of cracked or broken china ware and providing labour for agriculture, fortune telling, blood letting and leeching, and selling herbal medicines and even turning to prostitution of women and boys due to a severe lack of prospects.

Among those gypsy groups who can still be found in both the Punjab and Afghanistan (and by extension, Central Asia and even Iran) today, are the Qalandar, Changar, Musali, Chingar, Jogi, Baloch and possibly the Churi Ghar who may be a part of the Vangawala or Churifurosh or even their parent community. The various gypsies called ‘Baloch’ are not the same as the Balochi-speaking tribes of Balochistan.

All of these people groups face widespread discrimination, daily racism, socio-economic issues and religious persecution, extreme poverty, very poor living conditions, lack of prospects, identity crisis and insecurity, and more, but those who are itinerant or ‘gypsies’ are also often stateless, which creates even more problems for those communities. They are stateless in Afghanistan and Pakistan and both common people and government officials despise them and do not consider them equal citizens.

Apart from the missionaries (and even they initially wanted to attract ‘high’ caste converts), hardly any governments have taken any interested in the plight of these peoples. The Pakistani state, despite the Chuhra initially being in favour of it, has totally failed them and they have accepted that they can never be the leaders of this nation. The Afghan government has made some empty gestures to settle them many decades ago but did not resolve their issues. The Soviets, however, were somewhat successful in giving them their basic rights but all citizens of the USSR enjoyed these privileges.

Overall, these people have not gained much by changing their names and religion and migrating. In fact, they have lost a lot more, including their original cultural identity. Consequently, things that concern most of the ordinary Afghan and Pakistani citizens such as national borders, religious edicts and mainstream cultural norms mean little or nothing in the context of these disenfranchised groups. Indeed, we have no reason to be attached to any particular nationality because we have got nothing worthwhile from undivided India, new Pakistan or Afghanistan. So, we should look back to our ancestors and our real Mediator.

I personally have lost faith in religion. However, I do seek to rediscover and return to such original creeds as the Bala Shahi tradition and/or the cult of Lal Beg. Unfortunately, not much is known about these due to conversions by missionaries and the Arya Samaj.

There was one supreme creator god called Alif Allah but it was Bala Shah who was the main focus of veneration. Mounds, alters and shrines were the places of worship where candles were lit and offerings and sacrifices were made. There were also other minor deities such as Mata Devi and protector against snake bites, Goga Pir, also known to the (mainly Hindu) Jogis of Sindh.

Blind patriotism or religious devotion does not fill those stomachs who seldom see food. The very same musicians who sing praises of the state are neglected by it. Zarsanga refuses to leave Pakistan; it is her land. She has turned down offers to immigrate abroad and continues to live an impoverished, itinerant life without owning her own house. Despite being so famous, she was devastated by floods and did not receive any help. In return for all the patriotic songs he has sung, Ustad Gul Zaman’s tribe was rewarded by the Afghan government with perpetual statelessness and the looming threat of eviction.

We must ask ourselves as human beings why, in our society, those who commit murder and spread hatred in the name of god are given a higher status and applauded whereas those poor broken souls who struggle to survive on a daily basis are despised and discarded. Because we supposedly disrespected the beliefs of the cruel majority, we are certainly liable to be burnt alive and raped.

Terrorists overall are more respected in Pakistan and Afghanistan than the peaceful gypsies and former Untouchables who have become scapegoats. If any Chuhra or gypsy commits a crime or turns to ‘shameful’ acts like prostitution or cross dressing performances and ‘selling’ their daughters, it is because they genuinely lack prospects. They do not have any other options in life.

Violence and extremism have never been part of our open and jovial lifestyles. Particularly in more conservative regions, we are stigmatised because the women of our communities actively participate in economic, religious and cultural life and in some cases, are the heads of the family. Our men are stereotyped as being lazy, unwilling to work and pimps but this cannot be further from the truth. Due to necessity, all community members regardless of age and gender are found to be working.

Neither the Hindus nor Sikhs and Muslims gave us what we needed so naturally some of us looked to the White English overlords and adopted their ways. In the end however, even they did nothing. Others attempted to carve out their own identity, with limited success. The failed and little-known Ad-Dharm movement, for example.

Now, I myself feel it is best to recover our roots rather than copy the ‘higher’ castes in the hope of being accepted by them. In Muslim lands, most Chuhras did not eat pork. Though some did traditionally hunt wild boar (‘barla’) or worse, scavenge its carcass. In order to combat hunger, we should have no qualms in eating this most delicious, plentiful game meat.

Pakistani Christians have never been violence. As a people, we dalits are still uncertain whether God actually listens to the prayers of the ‘Kali Zaat’ (Black race) and we can be forced or coaxed to shout ‘Pakistan zindabad!’ at the top of our lungs, but in our heart of hearts, we will be thinking ‘Pakistan se zinda bhag!’ before they succeed in killing us all.

While we can be forced to say the Kalima at gunpoint or be forcefully converted to a foreign ideology (Wahhabism), our only Mediator will always be Bala Shah. He is our true saviour and our own. Bala Shahi is our original state of being. Bala Shah Nuri is given as the one true name to be called upon by the needy. Phir bolo mominon Wali ek!

But what can actually be expected from the kind of society that would rather question our religious affiliation than help us secure the future of our children? To them, we are sub-human. We are polluted. They cannot share utensils or even wells with us. They cannot touch us. We are still untouchable Dalits; Harijans like our forgotten ancestors in undivided India. Ironically, the situation of these groups in India itself is arguably better nowadays than it is in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Our communities have no political voice whatsoever and yet are accused of wanting to overthrow governments, spread corruption and ‘sell’ the nation out. Some of us, by the power of the constitution, can never become leaders of this holy land of Pakistan because we are not holy ourselves.

The rights of our non-Muslim kin (Christian and Hindu/Valmiki) and those of our gypsy relations must be safeguarded. The Non-Muslims need protection and advancement and the gypsies foremost need access to basic amenities and identity documents. Our Muslim brethren, the Musalli in Punjab and the Kutana in Bannu are the butt of village jokes. Try to understand what effect it could have on the psyche of an impressionable young child who hears such racist talk.

We need positive change, otherwise we may disappear and if we do, it will definitely be a major problem for the society that has always excluded us. Imagine what would happen if one day there are no sweepers left in Pakistan, no bangle-sellers in Afghanistan, no more naswar for Tajikistan, and certainly no more music, dancing or haircuts for the Pakhtun?

Even though my words show bitterness, I do not blame or hate any particular group for our present and historical circumstances. All is not lost. You, as the majority, do have the power to save us and yourselves before it is too late.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Your patriotic sentiments may be hurt but your hurt feelings are no more important than ours.

Thank you for sharing this information. Being born and lived in Peshawar, the only interaction I have had with nomads were the ones travelling with their camels. I was always curious about them. But here you provided much insight into this neglected community which quenched my thirst. Welcome to the forum and have a nice time.

Thanks!

Do you mean the Kochyan? They are pure Afghan Pakhtuns unlike us, we originated from India
 

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