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Rakhigarhi and After- IV: The AIT Brigade after Rakhigarhi

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Rakhigarhi and After- IV: The AIT Brigade after Rakhigarhi
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Strictly speaking, nothing new is being said by the AIT Brigade after the Rakhigarhi report other than making an issue of the doublespeak of certain geneticists who were co-authors of both the genetic reports. Apart from that, the same things are generally being said which were said by Tony Joseph in his book “Early Indians“, which I have torn to shreds in my book “Genetics and the Aryan Debate“. Whatever the AIT Brigade says now on the subject of the so-called “genetic evidence” or the AIT-OIT issue in general, will most likely already have been fully answered in my book.

So I will just pick up a few snippets from two of the writers whose post-Rakhigarhi articles I have enumerated at the beginning of this article, which raise different points, to show the utterly unscholarly nature of their ranting:

A. Vir Sanghvi:

Vir Sanghvi converts this issue into a Hindu vs. Muslim debate.

1. Sanghvi sums up the AIT vs. OIT debate as follows: “It is a measure of the mood in today’s India that archaeology, genetics and racial purity have now been co-opted in a debate about current politics. Not since the middle of the 20th Century has racial purity been as important in the politics of a major nation. And yes, the term ‘Aryan’ is being bandied about with a worryingly familiar ease.“.

Who has made the “Aryan” issue into a question of “racial purity“? Certainly not the Hindutva side, which totally rejects the idea of an Aryan race as much as the idea of an Aryan invasion. It is their opponents (like Vir Sanghvi himself in this article) who “bandy” the term with “a worryingly familiar ease“.

2. He pontificates: “Once you base your ideology on racial and religious purity, then you commit yourself to a different kind of politics where the battles of thousands of years ago resurface in a modern contest and where research is not a scientific tool but a weapon in political skirmishes. Something like that is happening in India today.

Again, the same idea: there are certainly orthodox Brahmin groups who speak and think in terms of racial purity, but it is these groups which in fact, support the AIT. The Hindutva side, which opposes the AIT, is not using research as “a weapon in political skirmishes“: it is in fact groups hostile to the Hindutva idea, like missionaries, leftist ideologues, casteist “dalit” groups, Dravidianists, and others who are using this idea of “racial purity” as a “weapon in political skirmishes“, and the Hindutva side rejects and opposes this idea of “racial purity“, and tries to use research to counter such activity..

3. He further alleges: “According to the right, the Hindus were the original inhabitants of India. Muslims were invaders. Nobody questioned the right of Muslims to live in India but they needed to accept that they had come to a Hindu county from elsewhere.

No-one at least no serious OIT scholar says either that “the Hindus were the original inhabitants of India” or that the Muslims, i.e. Muslim people, had “come to a Hindu county from elsewhere.

Even in my first book in 1993, where I dealt with the political corollaries of the AIT (which includes much of what Sanghvi says above) and was sharp in my criticism of Islam and Christianity in India, I specifically wrote as follows: “Muslims and Christians are not ‘foreigners’ in India. Muslim and Christian fundamentalists may identify wholly with their foreign brethren, and some Muslims may even gloat at the idea that they are the descendants of Islamic heroes who ‘conquered and ruled’ a land teeming with kāfirs, but the fact remains that they are all Indians as much as the Hindus (including the ‘Aryans’). At a certain point of time, their ancestors were the more helpless among the Hindus who were forcibly converted to Islam. […] in historic times there were invasions of India by Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Kushans and Huns. Many of the invaders stayed in India and got integrated into the population. Today some anthropologist may manage to dig out material and claim that some community or other constitutes the descendants of one or the other of those invaders. But who would treat such a claim, even if it were proved beyond doubt, as the basis for branding that community as a ‘foreign’ community? […] every single foreign community entering India, right from ancient times, has been completely absorbed into the Indian identity […] and according to the Aryan invasion theory itself, this happened in the case of the ‘Aryans’ as well […] Hindu nationalism has nothing to do with the childish, petty and ridiculous idea of dividing Indians into ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ on the basis of whether or not their ancestors, actually or supposedly, came from outside.” (TALAGERI 1993:46-47).

Incidentally here is where the cornier elements among the left, right and secular categories unite: “the Hindu Right has struggled to prove that the people of the Indus Valley were Hindus and that today’s Indians are directly descended from them.

Why should Hindus all over India be “directly descended” from “the people of the Indus Valley“? At the most, the people living in the areas where the Harappan culture flourished could, rightly or wrongly, make such a claim and these include the Muslims in Pakistan. But it requires a very “invasionist” or “colonialist” outlook to brand people, whether Indo-Aryan language speaking or (as Tony Joseph insists) Dravidian language speaking, from other parts of India as the “direct descendants” of the Harappans or, indeed, of the Vedic people (who, also, as I have pointed out in my books, were just the Pūru tribes of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh). Were huge parts of India an uninhabited desert a few thousand years ago, that the present-day people residing in those parts should be sweepingly regarded as “directly descended” from the then inhabitants of any one other particular part of India?

4. Finally, he seeks to equate the Aryan invaders with later Muslim invaders (remember, it is Sanghvi, not our side, which seems to sub-consciously identify present-day Indian Muslims as “direct descendants” of the Muslim invaders): “the Aryans were also invaders or, at the very least, migrants. And as there was little evidence to suggest that the Indus Valley Civilization was Hindu, then even Hinduism was a religion that had come to India from elsewhere.” Later, he refers to “those who believe that the so-called Aryan-Dravidian divide does not exist and that Hinduism is an entirely indigenous religion. If the Aryans came from the Steppes and brought an early version of Hinduism with them, then how were they so different from the Muslims who came much later?

Let me clarify things to this kindergarten child: the Aryans, who allegedly came from the Steppes, and Muslims, who did come much later, are ghosts from the past. Whether or not they were different is immaterial: present-day Hindu people and Muslim people are both of Indian descent.

But yes, “Hinduism is an entirely indigenous religion“, and, except by a diseased brain, it can in no way be treated as “a religion that had come to India from elsewhere.Islam and Christianity didcome to India from elsewhere“. It does not require an ideology to understand these facts: a schoolboy’s Atlas of the World is enough. And denying basic facts is neither piety nor wisdom.

I had elaborated these points in detail in my first book (1993). Let me quote that section here, even at the risk of being branded as “communal”:

“I. Hinduism had no founder, but every single holy man, seer and sage, and every single hero (or for that matter, villain) mentioned in every single ancient Hindu text and scripture is an Indian.

Islam was founded by Muhammad, an Arab. He was followed by four ‘pious’ Khalifas (the first three of whom are not accepted by Shias), all of whom were Arabs. Then followed a long line of lesser Khalifas (not all of whom are accepted by all sections of Muslims, who indeed broke into different sects on the basis of the struggles for succession to the throne of Khalifa), not one of whom was an Indian.

Christianity is based on the life of Jesus Christ, a Jew from Palestine. His twelve apostles were Palestinians and Romans. Christianity was founded by Paul, a Palestinian Jew and Roman citizen.

2. The sacred language of Hinduism is Sanskrit, which even the Aryan invasion theory cannot assign to any country other than India.

The sacred language of Islam is Arabic, the language of Arabia.

Christianity, perhaps, has no such thing as a sacred language, but, if one were to be named, Hebrew (the original language of the Old Testament), or Aramaic (the language reportedly spoken by Jesus Christ), or Greek (the language which hosted the first Christian Bible, Old plus New Testament, and indeed, which gave the word Bible’), or Latin (the liturgical language of the ‘Holy See’, the Vatican City) would be better candidates for the post than any Indian language.

3. India is the holy land for Hindus. All Hindu pilgrim centres and holy places are situated in and around India.

Arabia is the holy land for Muslims. Their principal places of pilgrimage are Mecca and Medina in Arabia, followed by Jerusalem in Palestine (Israel), followed by a few others, notably Karbala in Iraq, all in West Asia.

Palestine is the holy land for Christians. Their principal places of pilgrimage are Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, all in Palestine.

(If there are any places of pilgrimage for Islam or Christianity in India, it may be noted that: a) These are very minor ones as compared to the major ones in the West, more in the nature of local shrines; b) The persons commemorated by these shrines are almost invariably foreigners or converted Indians who turned against their ancestral Indian society and culture).

4. The sacred books of all the three religions claim to have the whole world as their stage. But, in reality, they are all geographically localized. The Hindu texts are centered in and around India. The Quran and Hadis are centered in and around Arabia and Palestine. The Bible is centered in and around Palestine and the Mediterranean region.

5. The heads of all Hindu religious sects are Indians. All Hindu religious centres are in India. All Hindu organisations (even those, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, whose names suggest an international character) are based in India, and headed and controlled by Indians.

The ultimate heads of all Muslim sects are foreigners. The major Muslim religious centres are situated in foreign lands. There are many international Islamic organisations of different kinds, but all these are based in foreign countries, and headed and controlled by foreigners.

The ultimate heads of all Christian sects are foreigners — the Pope being a prime example. The major Christian religious centres, in the form of the headquarters of each sect, are in foreign countries — that of the Catholics in the Vatican city, and those of the various Orthodox and Protestant churches, and modern fundamentalist sects, in Europe and America. The innumerable international Christian organisations are based in foreign countries and headed and controlled by foreigners.

All these points are so obvious that anyone who says that Hinduism is as foreign to India as Islam or Christianity, deserves to have his head examined. The followers of both Islam and Christianity have full knowledge of and pride in the time and place of origin of their religions outside India, the early history of their religions outside India, the arrival of their religions into India (brought in by invaders and imperialists), and the manner in which their religions were established in India. On the other hand, until the Aryan invasion theory was mooted by the European imperialists, no Hindu had ever suspected that any foreign connection could be attributed to his religion. Even today, with the Aryan invasion theory being instilled into every Hindu brain right from childhood, no Hindu worth his salt would accept the contention that Hinduism is of foreign origin.

Even the strongest advocate of the Aryan invasion theory cannot, in all honesty, point out any specific spot outside India to which the origin of any, simply any, aspect of Hinduism could be attributed. Even if, for the purpose of this chapter, it is presumed that the ‘Aryans’ came from outside India, and that they imposed the Hindu religion on local inhabitants (two questions which will be dealt with subsequently in this book), it will have to be admitted that there is no trace of any foreign connections in Hinduism, much less the consciousness, of any such connections, among Hindus—and least of all, any foreign loyalties, associable with such foreign connections“.

5. Funniest of all, Sanghvi’s title for his article is: “Why a 4500-year-old skull is key to the politics of India’s Hindu-Muslim divide“.

Sorry to say, but, except for some particular articulate, evangelical and western-educated Muslims, few Muslims are bothered about the AIT. No Muslim is bothered by the fact that Hinduism is of Indian origin and Islam is of foreign origin. He is not a Muslim because he wants to believe Islam is an Indian religion, or because he believes his ancestors were Arabs, but simply because it is the religion in which he was born, or at the most because he believes it is “the One and Only True Religion“. The AIT is in no way connected to the “Hindu-Muslim divide”, not even in the minds of Hindutva activists who react (if at all) to the AIT only when provoked by so-called “dalit” activists, Dravidianists, anti-Hindu leftists, and missionaries. They feel Hinduism is an Indian or indigenous religion because it is one, see above, and not in relation to Islam, much less to Muslims.

Sanghvi is very fond of the word “divide“. He refers to Hindutva people as “those who believe that the so-called Aryan-Dravidian divide does not exist“, a contradiction: does this divide “exist” (and the Hindutvites err in not believing that it does) or is it just “so-called” (and therefore non-existent, and therefore the Hindutvites are right)?

Indo-European and Dravidian are indeed two different language-families, which neither automatically means that one of them came from “outside” or that a “difference” is necessarily a “divide”. Unfortunately, Dravidianist ideologues treat it as a “divide”, and many Hindutvites, perhaps as a reaction, treat “difference”=”divide” and reject the idea that both are different language-families.

Vir Sanghvi could do with a little education on all these issues.

B. Girish Shahane:

Girish Shahane’s articles are full of pieces of arrogant half-baked comments based on embarrassingly half-baked knowledge, spiced with a liberal amount of venom.

1. If the roots of Sanskrit lie outside South Asia, as it is clearer than ever they do, it weakens the Hindu nationalist demonisation of Christianity and Islam as faiths alien to India“.

This is just a repeat of what Vir Sanghvi said above. I have shown how Hinduism is definitely Indian, while Islam and Christianity are definitely not Indian. These are geographical facts: the “demonization” is in Shahane’s mind.

But note the venom behind the declaration that the hypothetical ancestral origin of the Sanskrit language in a hypothetical proto-Indo-European language in a hypothetical Homeland in the Steppes makes the Hindu religionalien to India“.

2. “Hindutva activists, however, have kept the Aryan Invasion Theory alive, because it offers them the perfect strawman, ‘an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument’“.

It is refreshing to see Hindutva activists being accused of keeping the AIT “alive” rather than trying to kill it! A perfect example of “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument“.

3. “The earliest proof of horses being ridden and yoked to spoke-wheeled chariots appears in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, not India.” Shahane had made this claim in the 2018 article as well: “The innovation of the steppe people was to domesticate them, ride them, and hitch them to spoke-wheeled chariots.

Shahane’s claim seems to be that “spoke-wheeled chariots” were brought by Indo-Aryans into India all the way from the Steppes through Central Asia!

Even the most elementary student of Indo-European knows that spoked wheels developed after all the different branches had dispersed from the Homeland (wherever it be located), and there is no common word for “spoke” in the different branches. Not even in Indo-Aryan and Iranian.

In the Rigveda, spoked wheels or spokes are found only in the New Rigveda. They are completely absent in the Old Rigveda. This fits in with the fact that the Old Rigveda goes back beyond 2500 BCE, since spoked wheels were only invented in the second half of the third millennium BCE.

4. “The words for flora and fauna common across Indo-European languages are of animals and plants that flourish in temperate rather than tropical or subtropical climates. For example, words for the birch tree (Sanskrit: भूर्ज, bhūrjá) are similar in dozens of Indo-European tongues, while India’s national tree provides no Indo-European root. In fact, most European languages use a variety of ‘banyan’, a modern term derived from observing Indian traders (or banias) conducting business in the generous shade of these trees.

Indian writers supporting the AIT are particularly notorious for the embarrassing habit of citing old and outdated arguments which were common two centuries ago and have now generally been given a quiet burial in the west. It is now recognized that common words for flora and fauna in different branches of Indo-European languages are simply based on the flora and fauna actually found in the historical areas of those branches. It is known now that most Indo-European branches have common words for “temperate” flora and fauna simply because these are found over the entire area from Europe to India, while “tropical or subtropical” are found in India but not found in Europe and so any common names simply died out in Europe in the course of time. Flora and fauna found only in Europe do not have a common name in India either, and Witzel explains this by telling us that they “have simply not been used any longer and have died out” (WITZEL 2005:374). And the Gypsy or Romany languages, which are known to have spread out from India just over 1000 years ago have also not preserved any Indian word for “tropical or subtropical” flora and fauna, including the “banyan” tree cited by Shahane.

But now, it is being recognized that there are, in fact, a few common names for “tropical or subtropical” flora and fauna which have survived and which now directly point towards an IHT (Indian Homeland Theory). The most glaring example is the common word for “elephant/ivory“, which has become a big headache for western supporters of the AIT: with the proto-form *leHbho-nth– or *ḷHbho-nth– is found in at least four branches: Indo-Aryan íbha-, Greek eléphas (Mycenean Greek erepa), Italic (Latin) ebur, and Hittite laḫpa-. With a transfer of meaning to “camel”, it is found in two more branches: Germanic (e.g. Gothic) ulbandus, and Slavic (e.g. Old Church Slavic) velibodŭ.

5. There are persistent ludicrous references, in his 2018 article, to what “Hindutvavadis” would have wanted, or what they believe, in the matter of genetic data (specifically R1a) in the Aryan debate:

Speaking about the Rakhigarhi DNA, he tells us: “one such haplogroup, known as R1a, has become integral to the fierce debate about India’s ancient history. An individual who died some 4,500 years ago in Rakhigarhi in present day Haryana is entangled in the R1a controversy. Political pressure delayed an eagerly awaited study of that man’s genetic make-up, but it finally seems ready for print, and its findings were summarised in India Today by the magazine’s Managing Editor Kai Friese. Friese’s article was less about what the researchers found than what they didn’t find. What they didn’t find was the marker R1a. Had that marker been detected, Hindutvavadis would have been ecstatic. They would have felt vindicated in their belief that the Indus Valley people were no different from the Vedic people“.

The presence of R1a would have undercut the idea that a migration originating in the steppes brought Sanskrit to India at a time when the Indus Valley civilisation was in decline.

In the Hindutva view, Indian horse riders migrated to the steppes, taking with them R1a and the mother of Indo-European languages, not the other way round.

Well, we must be grateful to Shahane for telling us what would have made us go ecstatic, and what our view is. Who will know the Hindutva viewpoint better than this clairvoyant? None of us knew that Savarkar, who coined the word Hindutva, was a votary, and in fact the originator, of the Out-of-India Theory. Probably Savarkar himself did not know it. But this revelation is made by Shahane in an article on 10/8/2016 in (where else?) scroll.in, entitled “Despite Hindutva twists, it’s clear that the Indus Valley flowered before the Vedas were composed“: thanks to him, we now know that “The Out of India thesis originated with Hindu nationalists such as Savarkar and Golwalkar“!!! If we allow them to do so, the AIT Brigade will keep us engaged in discussing such trivia. Let us now see that the only item that will be discussed before any other in the Aryan Debate is the Chronology and Geography of the Rigveda.

Featured Image: The Better India

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Shrikant Talageri

Shrikant Talageri is a scholar and acclaimed author of The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, the seminal work on the Aryan Invasion debate. His latest work is "Rigveda And Avesta The Final Evidence."