The Luri People (Sarmastani) of Pakistan
by Zulfiqar Ahmed
My Name is Zulfiqar Ahmed. My university studies were in Political Science and Sociology. I am Luri so I faced racial discrimination. I am currently the chairman of a non political party namely Sarmastani National Alliance Pakistan.
It was the turning point of my life when I decided to research about the Luris. I started reading historical books by several local and English authors but no one satisfied me regarding the history of Luri. Mr. Agha Naseer Khan Ahmedzai is the first author/historian who broke the ice in this context but still there were so many confusions in my mind. I would like to mention that the only aim of my life is to eliminate the inferiority complex from the mind of my Luri people, so I am trying my level best to present their history.
Historical Note about the Sarmastani
Dr. Donald Kenrick, Director, Institute of Contemporary Romani Studies & Documentation, London, wrote in his article that “They (Luri) are also to be found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the USSR. However, they are not Romanies, but low-caste Beluchi and speak the Beluchi language (as well as a jargon based on it, in Pakistan at any rate).” He further wrote, “I leave it to those on the spot to investigate further but I would like to propose again my hypothesis that the Luri did not move from India into Iran, but migrated in the opposite direction, accompanying the Baluch in their journey from north-west Iran eastwards.”
I appreciate Dr. Kenrick’s research. All Sarmastani people claim Baloch ancestry and a famous Baloch historian from the Ahmedzai family (The Royal Family of Balochistan), namely Agha Naseer Khan Ahmedzai (Qambrani) also confirms this in his book Tarekh E Baloch O Balochistan (Vol. 4, 5 and 6) that Sarmastanis are Baloch and they played and important role in Baloch history.
From 1410 A.D to 1839 (when the British attacked Kalat), the Sarmastani tribe held the position of the Director General of the Central weapon making workshops. Weapons made by the Sarmastani tribe included guns, swords, spears and even simple cannons. Their services strengthened Baloch confideracy. So they had an important position in Baloch Society. The name Sarmastani is derived from the name Sarmast, who was the Director General of central weapon making workshop from 1410 to 1440. The race of Sarmast came to be known Sarmastani after him.
As far as the caste system is concerned, here in Balochistan caste often designates profession not ethnic group. Some other Baloch writers have also written about their professions as blacksmiths, carpenters etc, but no one has discussed their ancestry. When I saw the article of Donald Kenrick in the DRC reprint series I was much impressed as he has given facts that Sarmastani (Luri) tribe moved from west (Iran) to east (Balochistan) instead of moving from east (India) to (Iran). Shahnama Firdousi is not an authentic source. It seems very fictitious. Further proof that the Luris moved from Iran to Balochistan is that in Iran even today there is a province called Luristan or Loristan. The Luris of Iran are also Kurds and the Baloch Nation is also cousins of the Kurds.
General Situation of Sarmastani in Pakistan Today
I myself belong to the ethnic group locally called Sarmastani; a tribe of Province Balochistan (Pakistan). These people are dispersed through out Balochistan and Sindh. Their professions are blacksmithing, carpentry, and other small jobs. Being a part of nomadic culture, they don’t have their own land, houses or any property. Like other countries, Gypsies of Balochistan are also in a miserable condition and are victims of racial discrimination. Though the history mentions them to be an integral part of the former Baloch State and they are also recognized as a Baloch tribe. But the other Baloch tribesmen refuse their historical importance, thus they are not considered as a useful community. As a result they suffer an inferiority complex and their kids avoid going school.
Being an educated Sarmastani, I along with few of my educated friends, am running a small party namely Sarmastani National Alliance Pakistan (SNAP). The motto of our party is to bring the historical facts forward in order to eliminate the ethnic complex from the minds of my youth. For this purpose, we collected some data from various sources (including the DRC website) and got them published. After its publishing, we distributed it throughout Balochistan and got a positive response from the Gypsy masses.
Our greatest problem is that our people are having no specific area so they are always exploited by several political parties for the sake of their vote but once elected, every politician forgets the promises made for the prosperity of this community. Our literacy rate is at the lowest level so our people are easily trapped for political purposes, which is intolerable for us. We are looking for funds so that our community can be settled in a specific area so that they can become useful components of society, and their kids can go to the schools as it is their basic right which is neither given by the Baloch community nor by the Government.
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