Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fwd: Are you an Aryan invader? Colonial views on fair-skinned Aryans vs dark-skinned Dravidians have wide political currency today

great, simple piece by amish.

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Are you an Aryan invader? Colonial views on fair-skinned...
A south Indian politician recently accused a north Indian colleague of being an Aryan invader. I was tempted to dismiss it, at first, as another case of the usual p...
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A south Indian politician recently accused a north Indian colleague of being an Aryan invader. I was tempted to dismiss it, at first, as another case of the usual politicking. Politicians, after all, will do what politicians do. Some condemn Turkic/Mongol invaders, others British invaders and then there are those who move on to Aryan invaders. One can certainly nurse grudges against assorted invaders; but it has nothing to do with Indians living in the 21st century. That's obvious.
My surprise, though, emanated from this politician seemingly believing, without any doubt, in the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). What is the AIT? We've been told that the Indus or Harappan civilisation was peopled by dark-skinned Dravidians (the name was a much later addition; initially the theory called them 'indigenous people') who were invaded by fair-skinned Aryans from Central Asia/Eastern Europe around 3,500 years ago.
The Aryans apparently massacred and then pushed the remaining Dravidians to the South, occupied the freed land and composed the Vedas along with a vast body of other Sanskrit texts. They also created the caste system to oppress the Dravidians. This theory was liked by British colonialists, who were struck by the "romantic" parallel of a fresh wave of new white-skinned invaders, repeating an ancient story.
AIT is largely based on linguistics, ie the study of languages. European scholars of the colonial era found striking similarities between Sanskrit and Iranian/European languages, suggesting a common source or intermingling. Many theories were propounded to explain this intriguing discovery. One was the AIT.
Another was the Out-of-India Theory, suggesting that people moved out from their homeland in India in a northwest direction and hence spread their language. There were other theories as well. Now, languages don't have return addresses, so frankly, one can find enough arguments to support them all.
Linguistics is regarded as a science by some (many others may disagree), but it has inherent limitations as compared to other, more rigorous scientific disciplines. Theories based on linguistics are open to interpretations. Unfortunately, the debate in this area also takes place in a rather "mature" manner (sarcasm alert). Linguistics-driven historians, instead of conducting public and scholarly debates, indulge in name-calling. Insults are thrown freely. That's unfortunate and childish.
Linguistics, due to its nature, may open the field to contradictory opinions, but fortunately there are other scientific disciplines to evaluate the AIT issue.
Archaeology examines history through site excavations and analysis of artefacts/physical remains. Invaders tend to leave a trail of destruction. Unfortunately for AIT proponents, there is little credible archaeological evidence for a violent invasion 3,500 years ago.
Seeing the sands shift, some proponents of AIT pirouetted and propounded a new Aryan Migration Theory (AMT), ie the so-called Aryans migrated peacefully into India and most of the so-called Dravidians of the heavily-populated Indus civilisation moved south. If this were true, there should have been a massive influx of Eastern Europeans/Central Asians into India at that time, right? Which would show up in genetic records?
Unfortunately for the (now) AMT proponents, genetic science disproves this hypothesis. Most major papers on Indian genetics published in scientific journals like Nature and American Journal of Human Genetics over the last few years agree on one thing: There was no significant addition to the Indian gene pool 3,500 years ago!
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