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Despite Bihar ridden with caste, a genetics study suggests that ancient India had no such social str

Discussion in 'Internal Affairs' started by INDIAN NATIONALIST, Nov 28, 2015.

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  1. INDIAN NATIONALIST

    INDIAN NATIONALIST Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    Despite Bihar ridden with caste, a genetics study suggests that ancient India had no such social stratification
    ET Bureau Nov 15, 2015, 10.41AM IST

    DNA is not the kind of word that usually makes its way into an Indian election. So in a country where caste identities and religion play the dominant role in the election narrative, a reference to the jargon from genetics during the election campaign in Bihar was intriguing.

    It started with prime minister Narendra Modi's comment on Nitish Kumar wondering about a possible defect in the chief minister's DNA. Kumar's supporters responded by sending over 1 lakh hair and nail samples to the Prime Minister's Office ( PMO).
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    The political parties may not have realised it but, in recent times, genetics has had something to say about the operating software of contemporary politics: the caste system.

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    A 2013 study has offered a definitive picture on the origins of caste in the Indian society.
    The findings of a team of researchers from the Harvard Medical School and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have significant relevance when looking for a deeper reading of the Bihar poll results.

    The study which involved mapping the genomes of 571 individuals from 73 ethno-linguistic groups establishes that ancient India was one in which all people intermingled freely. The study had improved upon its 2009 findings which involved a smaller sample size of 132 individuals from 25 groups.

    Given that modern-day politics are governed by caste dynamics, read together with the findings of the DNA study, the Bihar results also appear to be an expression of anger at an artificial system imposed upon generations of people that encouraged inequality and supressed them for 2,000 years.

    After all, no one has ever offered a credible explanation for why some people were to perform lesser duties such as scavenging in a world that revolved around the internet.

    Caste is so deeply ingrained in society that it is often taken for tradition. For years, although historians could narrate the manner in which exploitation happened through the caste narrative, they could not give a credible theory on the origins.

    Sum of Caste Arithmetic

    Most political observers agree that the day Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad decided to come together, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was in for a significant challenge, given the caste arithmetic.

    And that was exactly how the election played out with the BJP managing to touch 58 seats, while the Mahagathbandhan, or the Grand Alliance comprising Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress marched home with 178.

    According to Sanjay Kumar, director of Lokniti, a research programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), it was quite apparent that caste insecurities are still in place in Bihar and have contributed to the victory of the Grand Alliance.

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    "The OBCs and Dalits feared that if BJP came to power they would go back to (the upper-caste oppression of ) the '80s. They are not totally happy in terms of jobs and economic growth. But they did win their self-respect which they feared would be trampled upon if BJP were to win," he said.

    The paper published by the genetic research team clearly states that this part of the world did not practise any form of segregation prior to 2,000 years. According to the study, there were absolutely no constraints on any sort of cohabitation to the extent that there was constant genetic crossing until a period when, all of a sudden, we see evidence of endogamy with no further evidence of intermingling.

    Stranglehold of the System

    According to the paper, there were two distinct genetic groups in India: the Ancient North Indian and the Ancient South Indian. They lived in isolation until they crossed paths about 4,000 years ago. They intermingled for 2,000 years and thereafter the societies here began to practice endogamy. Since then there has been little intermingling, suggesting the stranglehold of the caste system.

    For centuries, the fact that caste had taken the venerated place of tradition meant that India did not have a construct on the origins that was egalitarian. Scientists who worked on the project say that modern-day castes were borne of the segregation practices consciously adopted by what were tribal societies. "Castes grew out of tribal-like organisations during the formation of Indian society," explains Kumarasamy Thangaraj, a scientist at CCMB. According to Thangaraj this was conclusive evidence that pointed towards the fact that prior to 2,000 years, India did not practice endogamy, the practice of marrying within a specific group.

    In the absence of definite scientifically proven ideas about the origins, most debates on ancient history have to deal with a Manusmriti, which states that people belonging to certain castes were lesser beings as were women. If those are the kind of ideas that laid the foundations, where could Independent India look to in the past for guidance for its egalitarian ideals? There is ample evidence that the brutal system of caste exploitation continues to find a place in Independent India with the most recent killing of a Dalit family in Haryana being the latest manifestation.

    BR Ambedkar had lamented that the fight for Independence did not adequately address the inequities brought about by caste in an essay titled "Annihilation of Caste".

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    An Answer to the Caste Construct

    That Bihar had to deal with caste violence in the '80s and that Lalu Prasad emerged as a champion of social justice was perhaps the beginning of an answer to the caste construct that has governed life in India for centuries. The 2015 assembly election in that state has possibly amplified that expression of anger.

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    Given that history by itself was unable to give a definitive picture of the existence of an egalitarian society in the past, it was only 60 years after Independence that genetics was to offer a clear construct. And even as genetic science was offering clues about the real ancient India, on the ground in Bihar, those who had suffered at the hands of what has now been established to be an artificial construct appeared to have joined hands. It was almost as if Bihar had expressed its centuries old caste-angst at one go.

    "Instead of religious polarisation, this election showed the sharpest polarisation in terms of caste. Normally caste polarisation is associated with Dalits and OBCs. This time there was also a huge consolidation of the upper-caste vote with BJP," observed Sanjay Kumar. He added that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement on reservations would also have played a factor in sharpening the divide.

    The emergence of the cow campaign in the last leg of the BJP campaign also turned the election into a test-case for whether all castes agreed with the idea of cow protection being the core issue around which Bihar would vote.

    Sanjay Kumar says the defeat of the BJP does not essentially mean that cow was not an issue for the Bihar voter. But there are other issues which are more important, of which caste insecurities figure on top. In short, even if the cow campaign could have some resonance in the state, it could not figure over the anxiety among the lower castes of the probability of a return to a society that would dominated by the upper castes.
    Historian DN Jha who authored the controversial book The Myth of the Holy Cow however, says the election has proved that the cows simply cannot serve as the motif for all Hindus.

    "Historically cow veneration is a part of upper-caste ideology. The question the BJP needs to answer is whether they consider Dalits to be Hindus. Dalits eat beef and so do tribals in many parts of India. (A research project titled) 'People of India Project' has conclusively shown that 72 communities in Kerala eat beef and many of them are Hindu. BJP has a Brahminical notion of culture which is not in sync with ground realities of Indian culture," he says.

    Jha says that his research also supports the theory of an ancient culture that allowed free intermingling. "You do not need genetics to prove there was intermingling in India. The Rig Veda alone has 300 non-Sanskritic words. How did they creep in? Because there was intermingling of people." According to Jha, although genetic science could make definitive contributions to history, it needs to improve upon the sample sizes in order to be regarded as credible sources.

    The question of identity in India, adds Jha, was answered through a perverted prism. "The politics has always mislead people on the 'who are we' question. They made caste the reference point to get votes although it is not very relevant (to the essence of the question)."

    Despite Bihar ridden with caste, a genetics study suggests that ancient India had no such social stratification - timesofindia-economictimes
     
  2. The Drdo Guy

    The Drdo Guy Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    Someone having the knowledge of vedic culture can find that the varna system was not cast based but occupation based.A son of a king can be a businessman and a son of a businessman can be a priest and so on.This cast system thing evolved in later vedic period where the priestly class domination causes some sections of the society to suffer by not allowing them inside temple, by not allowing them to recite Gayatri mantra..The very concept of the varna system changed in later vedic period and the priestly class misused it..And after this the new religions like Bhuddism,Jainism etc evolved.Mind you that the founder of Buddhism was a king (kshatriya) and the 24th terthankar of Jain was also a King, who refused the domination of priestly class and taught the mass the path of salvation..Buddha& Mahveer Jain(ichavaku lineage of lord RAMA) are thought to be Reincarnation of lord Vishnu(written in upnishadas).Upnishadas condemn the later vedic period practices and priestly class dominance of society. To conclude-
     
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  3. The Drdo Guy

    The Drdo Guy Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    The vedic culture, the system& society at that time was what India should strive to achieve..The ideals and fundamentals set by vedas should be followed..We must abhor the practice of later vedic culture where the varna vyastha(occupation based) has changed to cast system(cast based) which even exists today..Like Social reformist Swami dayananda saraswati said in Ninteenth century to the people of Bengal and to the Indian masses, "BACK TO THE VEDAS".. Means atleast try to read and understand your vedic culture that what your Vedas teaches to you and remove all your doubts regarding those...
     
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