Aryan politics and our security concerns – B.S. Harishankar

Aryan migrants into India

B. S. HarishankarDr. Babasaheb Ambedkar … specifically warned against misappropriation of the Aryan Invasion Theory. He observed that the Aryan theory was not allowed to evolve out of facts but facts were selected to prove this pre-conceived theory. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai  … highlighted the fact that there is no substantial evidence to prove that Aryans invaded India and destroyed the Dravidians. – Dr. B.S. Harishankar

In an article, “How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate”, Tony Joseph, former editor of Business World, argued that the population of the Caspian, Central Asian and Indian regions share a common DNA (The Hindu, June 16, 2017). Endorsing the Aryan Migration Theory, Joseph contended that Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans (actually the British designated them as such), streamed into India sometime around 2,000—1,500 B.C. when the Indus Valley civilisation came to an end. They brought with them the Sanskrit language and a distinctive set of cultural practices.

Joseph insisted that India is a multi-source civilisation, not a single-source one, and draws its cultural impulses, tradition and practices from a variety of lineages and migration histories. While the Left historians remained silent, the Left parties were exuberant. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury gleefully tweeted: “the historical evidence of Aryan migration and the confluence that India is. Brilliant piece by @tjoseph0010”.

Then, once again eulogizing Tony Joseph’s article, Yechury observed: “akin to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, some recent findings based on scientific investigations on the genetic data suggest that there was, indeed, an Aryan migration into India around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago” (“Battle against post-truth”, Frontline, June 21, 2017). Yechury argued that the latest scientific study suggests that Aryans came into India from somewhere near the Caspian Sea in Central Asia/Europe, which has shattered the fascist agenda in India.

Sitaram Yechury is one of the principal architects of the Muziris Heritage Project in Kerala whereby JNU historians and Euro-American scholars excavated Pattanam to “prove” West Asian / Fertile Crescent contacts with India and search for the bones of Apostle Thomas. That the said Apostle never came to India at all is incidental.

Sunil Menon and Siddhartha Mishra, in a cover story titled, “We are all Harappans” present the same theory of Aryan migration into India, and claim that the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi at Sarasvati Valley in Haryana has more affinity with Ancestral South Indian tribal population than with North Indians (Outlook, August 2, 2018). The story claims that Rakhigarhi samples have Iranian farmer ancestry, which can be claimed only by present day south Indians. It identifies the Fertile Crescent as one of the core areas of agriculture and domestication of animals. The authors assert that this shows the Harappans and Rig Vedics were two distinct lines, one replacing or subsuming the other and the Ancestral South Indian is everybody’s ancestor in South Asia.

Rakhigarhi sparked global controversy in 2014, when eminent South Asian archaeologists criticised the intervention of foreign lobbies and funding by an opulent NGO for this crucial archaeological site. The foreign funding at Rakhigarhi and current media propaganda call for a clearer understanding of the problem.

The Aryan migration theory currently picked up by Outlook, was repackaged in the early 1990s. Marxist historian Romila Thapar in an article in Journal of Asiatic Society of Bombay (1988-91) contended that, “if invasion is discarded then the mechanism of migration and occasional contacts come into sharper focus. These migrations appear to have been of pastoral cattle breeders who are prominent in the Avesta and Rigveda”. Interestingly, Thapar is one of the top patrons from JNU for KCHR’s Rs 200 crore Muziris Project that seeks to establish India’s Fertile Crescent links and the arrival of Apostle Thomas. Marxist historian Irfan Habib earlier vindicated the migration and Dravidian theories, in “The Rewriting of History” (Outlook, February 13, 2002). Habib accused archaeologists and historians up in arms against Dravidian links to any great non-Aryan past: “presence of Dravidians in Indus Civilisation makes it so much more ours.”

It all began with church missionaries in India who positioned themselves as Indologists. John Wilson, President, Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay and Moderator of Church of Scotland, was one of the pioneers of the Aryan theory. Wilson used the Aryan Invasion Theory to highlight Aryan Dravidian conflict in his work, India: Three Thousand Years Ago. Another Scottish missionary, John Stevenson, who later became President of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society contended that pre-Aryan aborigines consisting of Dravidian and Munda language families were a single people. Stevenson argued that the Dravidian element was less in the north which was first invaded by Aryans, greater in the Deccan and maximum in the Tamil region where the invasion of the Aryan Brahminical race extended in the Age of Ramayana. Then, Brian Houghton Hodgson propagated a unitary aboriginal language and people in India, prior to the Aryan invasion. John Baldwin presented the invading Aryans as fanatical religious enthusiasts. F. Max Muller and Monier Williams also  ardently propagated the Aryan Invasion Theory.

In affiliating Dravidian languages to the Scythian group in the steppes of southern Russia and Ukraine, Bishop Robert Caldwell, member, Royal Asiatic Society, pointed out how F. Max Muller was supported by Bishop John Coleridge Patteson. Caldwell was assisted in his Dravidian studies by an array of missionaries such as Rev. J. Brigel, Rev. J. Clay, Rev. J. Dawson, Rev. E. Diez, Rev. F. Kittel, Rev. F. Metz, Rev. G. U. Pope, Rev. A. Graeter, Rev. C. Graul, and Rev. H. Gundert. Alexander Cunningham, first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, supported the Aryan invasion theory. Anglican priest Issac Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans, outlined the Aryan invasion and subjugation of aborigines in India.

T.E. Slater, missionary and member of Christian Literature Society, Madras, contended that Dravidians in India possessed a superior civilisation prior to the Aryan invasion. John Barton of the Church Missionary Society propagated themes such as Aryan invasion, suppression of original inhabitants, and slavery. Herbert H. Risley, a colonial officer, discovered 2,378 castes belonging to 43 “races, on the basis of a “nasal index.” The main racial groups included Indo-Aryan, Turko-Iranian, Scytho-Dravidian, Aryo-Dravidian, Mongoloid and Mongolo-Dravidian.

Stuart Piggot and Mortimer Wheeler set the seal with their archaeological works and Aryan invasion became the hallmark of ancient Indian history. In the post-colonial period, Aryan invasion and later migration theory were aggressively defended in Indian academia by Left historians such as Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma, Irfan Habib and D.N. Jha. There are western lobbies who still share similar ideas. American anthropologist David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel, and the Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (2007) is a typical example.

Prof. Dilip Chakrabarti, one of the foremost authorities in South Asian archaeology, in his recent work, Nation First, observes that apart from historical and racial issues, the Aryan invasion has been given socio-political dimensions primarily by Christian missionaries. The role of missionaries in propagating the Aryan theory has also been discussed by Prof. Rosalind O’Hanlon. The Delhi-based Indian Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge and Chennai-based Gurukul Lutheran Theological College are frontline missionary institutions articulating the Aryan Invasion Theory and subjugation of Dravidians and Scheduled Castes in India. The Dalit Christian Forum of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India is another body which propagates Aryan invasion and migration theory. Similarly, the World Council of Churches aggressively promulgates the Aryan Invasion Theory in the context of subalterns.

Eminent archaeologists and anthropologists such as B.B. Lal, George F. Dales, A. Ghosh, Kenneth Kennedy, J.P. Joshi, S.R. Rao, B.K. Thapar, R.S. Bisht and V.N. Misra have discarded these Aryan invasion and migration theories. Jim G. Shaffer and Dianne Lichtenstein trace Euro ethno-centrism, colonialism and racism in the allegations of mythical invasions and migrations. Indologists Michel Danino and Nicholas Kazanas have brilliantly exposed the major issues underlying the Aryan debate. For the Indian Left, these scholars of global reputation, are fascists with a communal agenda.

The Bronze Age civilisation which attained its maturity in the third millennium BCE had its formative stages at Kunal and Bhirrana in the Sarasvati Valley, beginning fifth-sixth millennium BCE.

Eminent physical anthropologists such as Kenneth A.R. Kennedy, John Lukacs and Brian Hemphill believe there is no evidence of “demographic disruption” in North-West India between 4500 and 800 BCE. This junks the possibility of any intrusion by so-called Indo-Aryans or other people during that period. Prof. Kenneth A.R. Kennedy has extensively used recent developments in osteobiographical analyses, taphonomical sciences and forensic anthropology in establishing trauma and violent death in skeletal assemblages and has rejected outright the hypothetical theory of invasion and massacre by Aryans. These scholars are a permanent eyesore for Indian leftists and journalists who hardly refer them in their cover stories or bibliographies.

In 1999, US biological anthropologist Todd R. Disotell worked with the early migration of modern man from Africa towards Asia, and found that migrations into India “did occur, but rarely from western Eurasian populations”. The same year, Estonian biologist Toomas Kivisild, with fourteen co-authors from various nationalities, suggested a connection between Indian and Western-Eurasian populations but opted for a very remote separation of the two branches, rather than a population movement towards India.

In 2000, thirteen Indian scientists led by Susanta Roychoudhury studied 644 samples of mtDNA from ten Indian ethnic groups, especially from the East and South. In a paper, Fundamental genomic unity of ethnic India, they identified a fundamental unity of mtDNA lineages in India, in spite of the extensive cultural and linguistic diversity.

A major study in 2006 by Indian biologist Sanghamitra Sengupta and fourteen co-authors, was based on 728 samples covering 36 Indian populations. They published their paper, Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distributions in India Identify Both Indigenous and Exogenous Expansions and Reveal Minor Genetic Influence of Central Asian Pastoralists. The authors emphasize how their findings revealed a minor genetic influence of central Asian pastoralists in India. This study indirectly rejected a Dravidian authorship of the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation since it observed that the data are more consistent with a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers than a source with proximity to the Indus-Sarasvati Valleys.

Another study in the same year, by Sanghamitra Sahoo and eleven colleagues, covered the Y-DNA of 936 samples covering 77 Indian populations, 32 of them hunting gathering communities. The sharing of some Y-chromosomal haplogroups between Indian and Central Asian populations is most parsimoniously explained by a deep, common ancestry between the two regions, with diffusion of some India-specific lineages northward. So the migration was not into India; it was out of India.

Sanghamitra Sahoo and her colleagues also found no evidence in the genetic record claimed by Colin Renfrew in late 1980s. In his work, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, Renfrew attributed Indo-European origins to the beginning of agriculture in Anatolia, and identified Indo-Europeans entering India around 9000 BP, along with agriculture.

Stephen Oppenheimer in The Real Eve: Modern Man’s Journey out of Africa (2003) noted that we find the highest rates and greatest diversity of the M17 line in Pakistan, India, and eastern Iran. Oppenheimer discards the Aryan invasion and suggests that M17 could have found his way initially from India or Pakistan, through Kashmir, through Central Asia and Russia, before finally arriving in Europe.

Recent studies by D.E. Hawkey on 29 dental morphological features confirm that Indus Sarasvati society shared similarities with Indian Mesolithic hunter gatherers rather than with intrusive pastoral population from the west. The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in collaboration with researchers of Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, analyzed 5,00,000 genetic markers across 13 states in India. The genetics proved that castes grew directly out of hunter gatherer groups during the formation of Indian society. The study highlighted that it was impossible to distinguish between castes and tribes since their genetics proved they were not systematically different. It also reveals that the current Indian population is a mix of ancient north and south bearing the genomic contributions from two distinct ancestral populations—the Ancestral North Indian and Ancestral South Indian.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, in Who were the Shudras?, specifically warned against misappropriation of the Aryan Invasion Theory. He observed that the Aryan theory was not allowed to evolve out of facts but facts were selected to prove this pre-conceived theory. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai in Ariya Mayai (Aryan Illusion) highlighted the fact that there is no substantial evidence to prove that Aryans invaded India and destroyed the Dravidians.

Communists across the globe have a notorious history of abuse of genetic studies to achieve political mileage. James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology, has written in his work, DNA: The Secret of Life, how genetics played a central role in ugly political episodes, especially in communist regimes. The pseudoscience Lysenkoism flourished in the erstwhile Soviet Union and represents the most egregious incursion of politics into science since the Papal Inquisition. Trofim Lysenko, a minor technician, was adopted by Joseph Stalin to head the Institute of Genetics within the USSR’s Academy of Sciences. He rejected the science of genetics—particularly as developed by Gregor Mendel and Thomas Hunt Morgan—as being foreign, impractical, idealistic and a product of “bourgeois capitalism”. Soviet scientists who refused to renounce genetics were dismissed from their posts; thousands were imprisoned. Several got sentenced to death as enemies of the state or starved in their jail cells or psychiatric hospitals.

Renowned journalist Jasper Becker describes in Hungry Ghosts how Lysenko promoted the Marxist idea that the environment alone shapes plants and animals. Marxist countries accepted his Law of the life of species which said that plants of the same species do not compete with each other but help each other to survive. This was linked to the Marxist notion of classes in which members of the same class do not compete but help each other survive. The leftists in India, who have inherited this Stalinist heritage, today dig for Aryan bones.

In the context of foreign collaboration in Indian archaeology, Prof. Dilip Chakrabarti pointed out in 2008 that the issues of race and migration have not gone away from mainstream Euro-American archaeology. They have relocated their space in the archaeological scheme under the new rubrics of ethnicity, historical linguistics and archaeo-genetics. Chakrabarti underlined the fact that people working in South Asian Social Science faculties in foreign universities conveniently develop a tacit patron-client relationship with their Indian counterparts in major Indian universities. He was delivering the presidential address on the topic, Globalization and Indian Archaeology at the annual conference of the Indian Archaeological Society, New Delhi.

In 2014, Chakrabarti delivered a lecture at the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi, on “Foreign Archaeological Collaborations and India’s Security Concerns”. He said that there is strong pressure from interested groups to hand over some major Indus sites to foreign money and foreign participants. The recent excavations at Rakhigarhi by the Deccan College, Pune, with money from an American NGO called Global Heritage Fund, is a suitable case in point. The Tribune reported (April 15, 2015) that Global Heritage Fund, an international organisation, has included Rakhigarhi as Asia’s ten most significant archaeological sites. But GHF is not a conglomeration of academicians or a country’s official archaeological expedition team. Its founder, Jeff Morgan, is a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Chakrabarti also criticizes the Pattanam excavations in Kerala by Left historians with Euro-American collaboration, keeping ASI and Indian Universities out. Similar to Rakhigarhi, the association of Pattanam with Biblical sites in Fertile Crescent and West Asia by KCHR has generated many controversies. There is a similarity between Rakhigarhi and Pattanam. The foreign agencies and their Indian collaborators work hard to associate these two sites with the Fertile Crescent and West Asia which accommodates the major Biblical sites of the world. If Pattanam opts for a maritime route to India from the Fertile Crescent, Rakhigarhi picks up a land route through the northwest. The objectives are now clear.

Chakrabarti’s observations are important as Sunil Menon and Siddhartha Mishra’s cover story in Outlook (Aug. 2, 2018) presents the old theory of Aryan Migration in the Rakhigarhi context. Chakrabarti emphasizes that if foreign academic groups are allowed to control and interpret India’s past, we must be aware of the dimensions which impinge on our long-term national security. We should be cautious that major premises regarding the nation’s past cannot be allowed to be controlled by foreign groups.

Chakrabarti highlighted attempts to relate prehistoric Indian cultures to various Indian languages. He cautioned about the consequences if these language groups were given fictional linguistic affinities, leaving the field wide open for regional chauvinistic premises. The Deccan College archaeological group is in the forefront of this endeavour, but in the background one detects the money and influence of a Japanese and an American group, warns Chakrabarti.

The first attempt to interpret national elections in India within a racial framework was at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, in 2014. On May 27, 2014 a panel discussion was organised by the teachers association to commemorate Jawaharlal Nehru’s death anniversary. Prof. T.K. Oommen, former Prof. of Sociology, pointed out the different voting patterns in the northern and western regions of India, compared to the east and south, since the former areas have an Indo Aryan population. He meant that the northern and western Indian population have ancestors who migrated to India in 1500 B.C., per the Aryan Invasion Theory protagonists.

Prof Oommen is a hard core propagandist of the Aryan Invasion Theory. But few are aware of that in 1984-89, he was vice chair, Church and Society, World Council of Churches, Geneva. The World Council of Churches maintains close links with Communist parties and regimes across the globe.

When the Aryan invasion or migration theory is re-launched on a Harappan site with funding from an American NGO, to divide society just six-seven months before the national elections, it surely raises concerns about national security. The Central Government needs to be vigilant in this respect, and the Archaeological Survey of India is also answerable. – Vijayvaani, 11 August 2018

» Dr. B.S. Harishankar is an author and senior archaeological researcher. He was the former Asst. Director, Indraprastha Museum, New Delhi. 

Harappa Rakhigarhi Area Map


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