Baluchi - Sociopolitical Organization



Baluch society is organized both into kin-based clans and territorially defined tribes. One could claim a rough correspondence between the clan and the social hierarchy as distinct from the tribe and the more specifically political sphere, but this correspondence is not absolute. The Baluchi people are an amalgam of many large units, or chieftaincies, each one of which is itself composed of a nested set of smaller organizational units. From largest to smallest, these constituent units can best be understood as clans, clan sections, and subsections—with smaller segments of this last division being the level that most closely corresponds to actual settlement units. At each level of this hierarchy, leadership is in the hands of a male elder. At the least comprehensive level, such leadership is as likely to be achieved as inherited, but over time authority at the more inclusive levels has devolved to the elders of what have become hereditary "chiefly clans" ( Sardarkel ). By the fifteenth century, the Sardarkel formed the organizational foci of a loosely understood feudal system, which had developed into a set of semiautonomous sovereign principalities by the eighteenth century. During the imperial period, the Sardarkel served as mediators between British and local interests, losing a great deal of their original autonomy in the process. However, as a result of their participation in securing the interests of the ruling power, much land and wealth accrued to these groups, establishing a new and more purely economic basis for their leadership role, as well as allowing them to develop something of a monopoly over access to the larger political systems within which the Baluchi People now found themselves. As a "stateless" people, the Baluchi political presence is today somewhat attenuated. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of groups sprang up in the name of Baluchi nationalism, but their activities have been largely of a guerrilla nature and, as yet, they have been unable to secure international support for their cause.

Social Control. Although Muslim, the Baluchi do not invoke Sharia (Islamic law) to deal with social transgressions. Rather, secular authority is vested in the traditional tribal leaders ( Sardars ) and conducted according to Rawaj, which is based on the principles of Baluchmayar. The ultimate traditional sanction was provided by the mechanism of the blood feud, invoked by the clan to avenge the wrongful death of one of its members. Capital punishment was also traditionally applied in cases of adultery or the theft of clan property. Refusal to comply with the socially prescribed norms of hospitality is punishable by fines imposed by the local elders. Pardon for many social infractions can be obtained by the intercession of female representatives of the offender's family. In the case of all offenses except that of adultery, the offender may seek refuge in the household of a nonrelated clan, which obligates the household providing sanctuary to fight to the death to defend the refugee. Petitions for such sanctuary must be granted, according to the code of Baluchmayar. Formal public taunting, in verse as well as in direct speech, provides a further mechanism by which compliance with the Baluchi code of behavior is enforced.

Conflict. The warrior tradition of the Baluchi extends back throughout their history, reaching its fullest flowering in the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, at a time coincident with their need to establish a settlement base from which to conduct their seminomadic way of life. During the imperial period the British imposed a policy of pacification upon the region and enforced it by maintaining a substantial garrison presence. The Baluchi reputation for producing fierce Warriors is today recalled primarily in the activities of the "free fighters" of the Baluchi nationalist movement.

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