1. Political aspects of the Aryan
1.3. POLITICIZATION AS
AN OBSTACLE TO RESEARCH
1.3.1. Taboo on Indo-European
of racist doctrines with the term “Aryan”, introduced in Western languages
as a synonym of “Indo-European”, had as one of its side-effects that after
the collapse of Nazi Germany, the entire field of IE studies came under
a shadow. Specialists of IE culture were ipso facto suspected of
Nazi sympathies. Sometimes this was not altogether baseless, e.g.
the Dutch scholar Jan de Vries, whose studies on Germanic and Celtic culture
are still standard works, was chairman of the Kulturkammer, the
collaborationist institution which controlled the purse strings for all
cultural activities under the German occupation of the Netherlands.
Under his supervision, Nazi themes were cunningly interwoven with legitimate
Dutch or Germanic folklore. Though arguably not a full-blooded Nazi
by conviction, he could hardly be considered innocent.
other cases, this suspicion is quite misplaced, e.g. in the case of Georges
Dumézil, actually a critic of Nazism, cautious in public but quite
outspoken in his minor writings and private communications.88
It is true that Dumézil sympathized with Italian Fascism, but Fascism
sensu contrasted with Nazism in very important respects, esp. in not
being racist (the Communist-imposed usage of “fascism” as a generic term
or as a synonym of National-Socialism, resulting from Stalin’s desire to
avoid staining the term “socialism” with Hitlerian associations, obscures
the contrast between the two systems). It has been
shown that Dumézil’s sympathy for Fascism and contempt for Nazism
may have influenced his views of ancient Germanic religion, which he contrasted
unfavourably with ancient Roman religion.89
In Dumézil’s studies ca. 1940, Germanic religion is criticized as
a defective evolute of IE religion, having lost the spiritual and overemphasized
the martial function: this was at least partly a projection onto the past
of the militarization of Germany in Dumézil’s own day.
late as 1982, a survey of Swedish national history had its chapters on
the settlement of the Indo-Europeans in Scandinavia cut out. Not
rewritten but cut out, for the very mention of the Indo-Europeans (not
even “Aryans”) was considered irredeemably tainted.90
The hysterical nature of this act of censorship comes out more clearly
when you realize that the settlement of IE immigrants coming to Scandinavia
from the southeast goes against the Nazi predilection for a North-European
Urheimat of the “Aryans”. Even now, normalcy in this department of
historical research has not been entirely restored yet.
taboo on IE studies emanates from lazy or superstitious minds: rather than
identifying exactly what was wrong with Nazism, they simply label everything
which was ever associated with the Nazi regime, albeit accidentally or
even illegitimately (as with the swastika, borrowed without permission,
through the Theosophy-led “occultist” revival, from Hindu-Jain-Buddhist
tradition)91, as being somehow the root cause
of the Holocaust. All kinds of things justly or unjustly associated
with the Nazi regime are still under a cloud eventhough they have in any
case nothing to do with the crimes of that regime.
in 1997, the German Minister of Postal Services, Wolfgang Bötsch (belonging
to the right-wing
Christlich-Soziale Union), stopped the printing
of poststamps commemorating the 200th anniversary of the liberal German-Jewish
poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) because they showed the years of his birth
and death with the runic signs Man (a glyph resembling a tree with
upward branches, suggesting life) c.q. Yr (“yew”, a tree with branches
hanging down, signifying death), still a common usage in North-European
graveyards. Someone had protested that runes are tainted by their
association with the Nazi elite corps, the SS, whose sigil carried the
letters SS in runic script. In reality, the rune script is thousands
of years old and has nothing to do with the Nazi ideology, even less than
the Roman script in which the orders for exterminating the Jews were written.
cases, this fear of anything that was in any way related to Nazi Germany
is simply silly, e.g. the tirades in the leading Belgian daily La Libre
Belgique in the post-war years against plans for a national motorway
network, citing the grim objection that the German motorways had been built
by Hitler. It is a modem form of superstition, as if all these items
are somehow magically tainted with the Nazi evil. In other cases, the tendency
to cast the net of Nazi guilt as widely as possible is a deliberate strategy
born from self-interested calculation. Thus, many members of the
post-war generation enjoyed putting the entire generation of their parents
in the dock, telling them that their values (order, discipline, morality),
which Hitler had also extolled, had “led to” Auschwitz. Communists
still try to capitalize on their victory against Nazism in their struggle
against other opponents, arguing e.g. that liberal democracy is deeply
flawed and that this is proven by Hitler’s rise to power through democratic
elections: so, down with democracy, for it has “led to” Hitler’s regime.
the present case, Christians and secularists who try to make the (largely
mythical) association of ancient IE Pagan culture with Nazism stick to
the old enemy: Pagan religion, including the neo-Paganism now emerging
in many European countries.92 For all we know
about ancient IE culture, or certainly about the ancient Celtic, Baltic,
Slavic and Germanic ancestors of the modem Germans, they were very freedom-loving,
they had a decentralized polity and a pluralistic religion, and they had
of course no notion of anti-Semitism. They would never have felt
at home in Hitler’s regimented and racially obsessed Nazi state.
1.3.2. Paradigm inertia
usefulness of the AIT for political ends, it does not follow that the AIT
was coined simply as a political weapon. Both in Europe and in India,
many scholars have believed and still believe that the AIT is simply the
most convincing hypothesis to account for a number of actual data in linguistics
and other disciplines. The tendency in some Indian circles to denounce
linguistics as a “pseudo-science” for having generated the AIT, or to allege
that the AIT was “concocted” by political schemers, must be rejected.
On the whole, the scholars concerned genuinely believed in their own hypotheses,
and were sincerely trying to make sense of newly-discovered facts such
as the linguistic kinship between the languages of Europe and northern
the Western scholars are not guided by political motives, their Hindu critic
might ask, why are they so stubborn in refusing to acknowledge facts which
may disturb the AIT? Why, for example, have they failed, all through the
past decade, to acknowledge the relevance of the twin fact that archaeology
locates the Harappan civilization mostly in the Saraswati river basin,
and that Vedic literature places Vedic civilization in the same Saraswati
basin, in both cases before the river dried up in ca. 2000 BC?
and linguists sometimes display great ingenuity in explaining away (or
just ignoring) facts inconvenient to their pet theory, this should be seen
as merely a case of the universal tendency to stick to established beliefs
until the evidence to the contrary becomes really overwhelming. Scientists
- in any field - abhor the disorder created by information which is incompatible
with the established theory, and therefore rightfully continue to assume
that a second look will smoothen this initial incompatibility and “domesticate”
the new information. They have a very functional kind of immunity
to facts disturbing the paradigm which underlies their research.
first-rate and patriotic Indian historian like R.C. Majumdar had the same
capacity to keep on ignoring facts disobeying the theory to which his mind
had become accustomed, viz. the AIT. After describing how many cultural
elements of the “pre-Aryan” Indus civilization have survived till today,
Majumdar displays that typical academic skill of not taking even registered
facts into account once they come in conflict with the paradigm: “How
such a great culture and civilization could vanish without leaving any
trace or even memory behind it, is a problem that cannot be solved
at the present state of our knowledge.”93
Such a huge anomaly should call the theory itself into question, esp. when
an alternative is ready at hand, and is even suggested by facts mentioned
by Majumdar himself, viz. that there is a straight continuity between the
Indus civilization and the later stages of “Aryan” culture.
example, the allusions to armed conflict in the Rg-Veda have always been
taken to refer to the confrontation between the Aryan invaders and the
defenders of the indigenous culture. Madhav M. Deshpande remarks
about these references: “It is extremely important to recognize that all
of these references to
of the Dasyu enemies] are found in those parts of the RV which are traditionally
regarded to be late parts of the text.”94
This should imply that the invaders were at first on good terms with the
natives (like the Mayflower pioneers with the Native Americans)
but became hostile later; or that the Vedic people were stable inhabitants
of the region which forms the permanent background of the Vedic hymns,
and were confronted with these Dasyus at a later stage, viz. when the Dasyus
invaded the Vedic-Aryan territory; or that this hostility had nothing to
do with a confrontation between invaders and natives.
Deshpande doesn’t even consider any of these possibilities: “This would
most probably mean that even by the time of the late parts of the RV, the
attitudes of the Vedic Aryans had not significantly changed, and that they
still regarded the dasyus as those who deserve to be killed by Indra.”95
After saying in so many words that the earlier layers of the RV do not
contain this hostility, he claims that the late parts “still” have it,
and that the Aryans’ attitude “had not significantly changed”, when it
had actually changed from neutral to hostile, as per his own summary of
the Vedic data. When facts challenging the AIT stare him in the face,
the scholar tends to prefer the familiar theory to the unwilling facts,
and this phenomenon can exist quite separately from any possible political
1.3.3. Political excuse
for non-argumentation: the West
of the political connotations of the rivalling theories is that people
feel justified in dismissing the theory they don’t like as “politically
motivated” and therefore obviously wrong and not worth refuting.
This phenomenon is in evidence in both wings of the political pro-AIT coalition,
a certain European Right and a certain Indian Left (plus its friends in
the West). Thus, the survey of IE studies in the
French periodical Nouvelle Ecole devotes exactly one footnote to
the entire argumentation for an Indian Urheimat, which it dismisses as
“in self-evident contradiction with all the data of linguistics and comparative
mythology” and as the symptom of “an exacerbated Indian nationalism”.96Consequently,
it does not care to mention the Indian Urheimat theory in its discussion
of “the five existing (Urheimat) hypotheses”.97
This is, of course, a case of the “genetic fallacy”: to assume that a position
must be wrong because of the motive in which it allegedly originates.
Quite apart front the fact that this motive is merely imputed, and often
falsely so, no good or evil motive can make a proposition right or wrong;
it is perfectly possible to speak the truth for the wrong reasons.
Sergent, in an otherwise brilliant book, can equally dispose of the anti-invasionist
argument in a single footnote, in which he accuses American archaeologist
Jim Shaffer of “manipulations”, which consist in “simply ignoring the linguistic
data”.98 He misrepresents scientist N.S. Rajaram’s
argument against the linguistic evidence for the Aryan invasion as follows:
“Linguistics is not a science because it doesn’t reach the same conclusions
as I do.” (In reality, Rajaram’s critique concerns
the tendency common among linguists to treat hypothetical reconstructions
as historical facts, and the impossibility for historical linguistics to
satisfy two tests of real science, viz. reproducing its findings and defining
test criteria which can show up its claims as false.)99
Sergent also dismisses conferences such as the 1996 conference of the World
Association for Vedic Studies in Atlanta on the Indus-Saraswati civilization
as propaganda exercises betraying a crusading rather than a dispassionate
scholarly spirit. This is rather poor as refutation, but then his
whole point is precisely that theories construed as emanating from a political
agenda are simply not worth discussing or refuting.
are cases where the impression of political usefulness of a theory has
stimulated research without really obstructing the researchers’ objectivity
and sincerity. Thus, in the 19th century, French scholars eagerly
explored the possibility that the Italic and Celtic branches of the IE
language family had, after separating from PIE, continued for long as a
single language group: such a scenario would have helped in strengthening
the French nation’s historical identity, otherwise split between a biological
Celtic ancestry and linguistic Latin roots. This research ultimately
led to the non-desired conclusion that Celtic and Italic were, after all,
not much closer to each other than either is to Germanic or Greek.
Ironically, recent research has revived and given new support to the idea
that Italic and Celtic did share a common itinerary for some centuries
after the break-up of IE unity, and this is not any less true just because
it has been a pet theory of French chauvinists.
example of the refused to discuss “politically motivated” research is the
treatment given to Shrikant Talageri in a prestigious book specifically
setting itself the task of countering the rising tide of doubts voiced
by archaeologists and philologists about the AIT. One may or may not agree
with Talageri’s anti-AIT position, but he has undoubtedly built up a painstaking
argumentation with ample reference to state-of-the-art scholarship, and
he deserves better than this comment by George
Erdosy, who locates him in the “lunatic fringe” and judges: “Unfortunately,
political motivation (usually associated with Hindu revivalism) renders
this opposition devoid of scholarly value”.100In
the same volume, Michael Witzel dismisses his work as “modem Hindu exegetical
or apologetic religious writing”.101
far, so good; Erdosy and Witzel are entitled to their opinions, even to
calling a fellow scholar a “lunatic” (though I doubt that they could get
their articles past the editor of an academic journal if they applied this
term to a Western scholar).102 But the point
is: they don’t show even the least acquaintance with the actual arguments
offered by Talageri. Both Erdosy and Witzel refer to: “S.K. Talageri: Aryan
Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism, Aditya Prakashan 1993”. That
is how the book’s data were given in a (laudatory) review by Girilal Jain
Times of India of 17 June 1993. Unfortunately,
the author’s real name is Talageri, and the book’s publisher is
not Aditya Prakashan (though there is another edition of the same book
under a different title by Aditya Prakashan, hence the reviewer’s confusion),
but Voice of India.103 This indicates that
the book which Erdosy and Witzel dismiss in such strong terms has never
even been on their desk.
1.3.4. Political excuse
for non-argumentation: India
too, proponents of the AIT use the alleged political connotations of the
rival theory as a handy pretext for avoiding discussion of the actual evidence. Thus,
historian Romila Thapar devotes a 27-page lead article in a social science
periodical (which admits in an editorial note that the article’s publication
is a political move to counter “the Hindutva forces”, and falsely narrows
the non-AIT school down to “the RSS”) to “The Theory of Aryan Race and
India” practically without mentioning the evidence presented by the non-AIT
school.104 She invokes “the linguistic evidence”
twice as proof of a late chronology for the Vedas (1500 BC), without telling
us how the linguistic data prove her point. Off-hand, she brings
in “the Indo-Iranian links” as proof of the same “since the earliest suggested
date now for Zoroaster is circa 1200 BC”, ignoring the fact that the dating
of Zoroaster’s Avesta is itself based on the late chronology of the Vedas
(the Avestan language being a slightly younger offshoot of Indo-Iranian
than Vedic Sanskrit). This cavalier way of dealing with evidence
apparently stems from the feeling that the anti-AIT case need not be taken
Romila Thapar’s entire article could easily have been written several decades
ago, for she totally disregards all the evidence from archaeology and archaeo-astronomy
presented by her opponents in recent years. She does mention the
existence of a non-AIT school, but explains it away as partly an RSS conspiracy,
partly a symptom of a psychological identity crisis in Non-Resident Indians,
meaning US-based scientists N.S. Rajaram and Subhash Kak and historian
Sushil Mittal of the International Institute for Indian Studies
disregard for recent evidence is noticeable in R. S. Sharma’s book Looking
for the Aryans, which went to the press in November 1994 but fails
to mention the pre-1994 argumentations against the AIT by K.D. Sethna,
S.P. Gupta (the only RSS man in the non-AIT school), David Frawley, Shrikant
Talageri and others, even in the bibliography. Thus,
Sharma repeats the old identification of Painted Grey Ware with the invading
Aryans, in stark disregard of the fact that the scholars whom he is countering
(as well as some who never opposed the AIT) have demonstrated that PGW
was but one “Aryan” art form among others, and that it is not traceable
to Central Asia as a marker of invading Aryans.105
of a judgment on the Urheimat question from the alleged motives of the
proponents of the contending theories is all-pervading and vitiates the
whole debate. Yet, if a theory can be considered wrong simply because
it is being used for political ends, it is clear that the AIT itself must
be the wrongest theory in the world: one looks in vain for a historical
hypothesis which has been more tainted with various political uses including
the most lethal ones.
list and rebuttal of the allegations against Dumézil is given in
Didier Eribon: Faut-it brûler Dumézil? (“Should Dumézil
be burned at the stake?”), Flammarion, Paris 1992. Of course, malafide
authors keep on repeating the refuted allegations.
Lincoln: “Rewriting the German war god: Georges Dumézil, politics
and scholarship in the late 1930s”, History of Religions, Feb. 1998.
work affected is R. & G. Haland: Bra Böckers Världhistoria,
vol. 1, Höganäs 1982, as reported in Christopher Prescott &
Eva Walderhaug: “The Last Frontier? Processes of Indo-Europeanization in
Northern Europe: the Norwegian Case”, Journal of Indo-European Studies,
autumn/winter 1995, p-257-278.
its final report (1997), the Belgian Parliamentary Enquiry Committee on
Cults counted the Mahikari movement of Japanese Shinto origin among the
dangerous cults and accused it of “extreme Right” connections, citing no
other evidence than that a swastika had been seen on its premises.
Buddhist temples in the West have been targets of serious vandalism because
of the swastikas on their walls. The swastika is used to prove the
essentially evil character of Hinduism in Evangelical propaganda, e.g.
the 1980s’ movie Gods of the New Age by Jeremiah Films, discussed with
indignation by a more fair-minded missionary, Richard Young, in Areopagus
(Hong Kong), Christmas 1990.
Christian attempt to associate Paganism with Nazism is Robert A. Pois:
National Socialism and the Religion of Nature, Croom Helm, Beckenham GB
1986. A secularist attempt to impute a proto-Nazi mind-set to Paganism
is found in numerous passages in Bernard-Henry Lévy’s books Le Testament
de Dieu, Grasset, Paris 1979, and L’Idéologie Française,
Majumdar: Ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1991 (1952), p.19;
Deshpande: “Genesis of Rgvedic Retroflexion”, in M.M. Deshpande & P.E.
Hook: Aryan and Non-Aryan in India, Ann Arbor 1979, p.300.
Deshpande: “Genesis of Rgvedic Retroflexion”, in M.M. Deshpande & P.E.
Hook: Aryan and Non-Aryan in India, p.300.
de Benoist in Nouvelle Ecole 49, Paris 1997, p.44.
de Benoist in Nouvelle Ecole 49, Paris 1997, p.50.
Sergent: Ganèse de l’Inde, Payot, Paris 1997, p.477. Shaffer is
also derided for consulting only English-language publications.
e.g. N.S. Rajaram: Aryan Invasion of India, the Mob and the Truth, Voice
of India, Delhi 1993, p.42, and Politics of History, ibid. 1995, p. 163ff.
Erdosy, ed.: Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Waiter De Gruyter, Berlin
1995, p.x. This comment also extends to Paramesh Choudhury: The Aryans:
a Modern Mob, Eastern Publ., Delhi 1993.
Witzel in G. Erdosy: Indo-Aryans, p.116-117. Referring to a likeminded
piece by A.K. Biswas (whom he mistakenly associates with Talageri), he
ridicules “the ulterior political motive of this ‘scientific’ piece”; op.cit.,
spite of all the “multiculturalism” and “globalization” buzz-words, numerous
Westerners still treat Indians as a lesser breed which is not to be taken
seriously. Prof. U1rich Libbrecht, the Flemish pioneer of Comparative
Philosophy, told me how at an international conference in Honolulu on that
subject, multicultural par excellence, the average American participant
treated the lectures by Indians as coffee breaks. I too have noticed
many times that proposals for talks or publications by Indians are dismissed
without a proper hearing on the assumption that Indians are cranks unless
they have an introduction from a Western institution.
Talageri: Aryan Invasion Theory, a Reappraisal, Aditya Prakashan, Delhi
1993, with a foreword by Prof. S.R. Rao and minus the three more political
introductory chapters of the Voice of India edition: Aryan Invasion Theory
and Indian Nationalism, with foreword by Sita Ram Goel.
Thapar: “The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History and Politics”, Social
Scientist, Delhi, January-March 1996, p.3-29. RSS: Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh, “National Volunteer Association”, a Hindu Nationalist organization
founded in 1925, now several million strong, and closely linked with the
Bharatiya Janata Party which came to power in March 1998.
Sharma: Looking for the Aryans, p. 12.
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