Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Aryan Connection

The Aryan Connection

By Satya Sagar

It is late night and I am still listening to this slick, pony-tailed, middle-aged Indian I chanced upon in a Munich café. "I meet them once in a while, the old Nazis" he tells me. "They have a soft corner for Indians".
 (Thanks, I tell myself, that's what I really need now ‘a Nazi soft corner'.)
It is my keenness to get a tangential Indian view of Munich that keeps me here with this bloke. An architect by profession, X-Ray (let us call him that) has lived in Germany now for over three decades and obviously has a ‘soft corner' for the Nazis too.
Not surprising at all. Many well-heeled Indians living overseas are ardent supporters of the quasi-fascist, Hindu chauvinist politicians ruling India right now. X-Ray's beloved Hindu right wing politicians, in turn, come from a long tradition of admiration for Hitler and everything he stood for- including the ethnic cleansing of the Jews in his times.
But why should the Nazis have a ‘soft corner' for India? How did it fit into their Weltanschauung?
The answer lies in the ‘Aryan Connection'. According to this piece of fiction the populations of Europe, India and Iran had a common ancestry in the Aryan Race, which migrated from the mountainous regions of Central Asia and produced some of the earliest human civilizations.
Over two centuries after the myth of the ‘noble, superior' Aryan Race was first postulated, the political, historical processes it set forth in motion are still with us in a variety of ways in South Asia, the Middle-East, Europe and even the United States. Though thoroughly discredited by modern scholarship as well as the horrific experiences of the Second World War, the Aryan Connection is still very much alive and killing in countries like India, Sri Lanka and in a perverse, inverted way in Zionist Israel.
The origins of the concept partially go back to Sir William Jones, a 18th century judge in Bengal as part of the British Raj, who studied the Sanskrit language and discovered several structural affinities it had with Greek, Latin, Celtic and German. Later, other scholars showed that Avestan (from ancient Iran), Armenian, and the Slavic languages were also related. All these were referred to as the Indo-German, or Indo-European group of languages.
As translations of old Sanskrit texts like the ancient Vedas flourished in Europe (Napoleon apparently carried it on the battlefield !) and enthusiasm for everything Indian grew dramatically it was just a matter of time before the notion of a common Indo-European language gave rise to the idea of common ‘racial' origins too. The upper-caste Hindus of ancient India, according to their traditional lore, were supposed to be descendants of Aryans who migrated from somewhere in Central Asia to India, a tale that blended perfectly with beliefs among European occultists that white ‘Caucasians' too had originated from the same or surrounding region. Ergo, the concept of the Aryan Race as the creator of ancient civilizations was born.
Given the nineteenth century European obsession with ‘race and history' the theory of the ‘noble, superior Aryan race' became wildly popular, took legs and ran all over the world posing as the answer to the mysteries of all ancient civilizations. By the early twentieth century this absurd concept had grown claws, a beak and even sprouted wings with the rise of Hitler before finally crashing to the ground in the flak and fury of the Second World War.
Let me explain why the idea of the Aryan race is so ridiculous. To begin with the category of ‘race' itself is itself quite dubious. Genetically almost all of humanity is identical and the only ‘race' we are all part of today, I believe, is the ‘rat race' of global capitalism.
Secondly the seemingly logical leap from postulating a common set of ‘Aryan' languages to the Aryan Race is also quite idiotic. A simple example will suffice to show its idiocy. If an extra-terrestrial studied the languages spoken on Planet Earth today and concluded that all those who speak, read and write English belong to the same race/ethnic group would he/she/it be right or wrong ?
Linguistic and cultural influences typically travel much faster than human populations (even in ancient times) and so the similarities that one sees between Sanskrit and Latin are entirely possible due to both having common linguistic but not a common ethnic origin. Even though it is safe to assume that there were several waves of migration from parts of central Asia into India over the millennia it does not follow that there is any one central source for Sanskrit. In all probability it evolved as a hybrid of both imported and indigenous languages native to ancient India, with contributions from a very diverse set of people of different backgrounds.
How is all this discussion of the Aryan race, supposedly buried with the Nazis, so relevant to what is happening in our world today?
First of all, the idea of the ‘Aryan race' is unfortunately not fully demystified yet in popular consciousness in several parts of the world. Just do a search for the ‘Aryan Race' on the web and see the number of sites that turn up talking about the term as a historical fact.
Secondly, the Aryan myth still plays an important role in the politics of several countries. In India, for example, the 19th century European notion of the ancient ‘Aryans' as the fount of all human wisdom and civilization underpins the modern Hindu chauvinist worldview according to which:
    a) The history of the Indian sub-continent is essentially an ‘Aryan Hindu history' reaching back continuously over 5000 years (including the Indus valley civilizations) and interrupted only by the ‘invasions of Muslims and later Christians' during the last millennium. So if Muslims and Christians want to survive in India today they will have to ‘Hinduise' themselves. If they don't do it on their own the Hindu storm troopers will force them to. The Aryans themselves in this version are believed to be completely indigenous to India and not migrants from outside.
    b) The Vedas, the world's oldest ‘Aryan' literature, are the repository of all ‘truth' and its wisdom needs to be revived and used in the modern Indian context irrespective of their relevance. Though they will never spell it out in so many words the more insidious part of this project to revive the ‘virtues' of ancient India is to justify and perpetuate the Indian caste system with the fair skinned ‘Aryans' at the top and the darker non-Aryan ‘rabble' at the bottom of the pile.
    c) India should aspire to be a ‘great power' in world affairs today to recover the ‘glory' of its ancient past. If necessary this should be done with the help of the nuclear bomb and supplicating before the only existing superpower- America.
In neighboring Sri Lanka the Aryan myth has played a devastating role in dividing the island's allegedly ‘Aryan' Sinhalese population from the so called ‘Dravidian' Tamil population over the past century or more. Several studies by Sri Lankan sociologists have traced the Theosophical Society's propaganda of the Aryan race theory (basically claiming the Sinhalese were of ‘Aryan' descent) in the late-nineteenth century as having shaped Sri Lanka's national consciousness drastically towards Sinhala racist chauvinism. While there were other factors also responsible for the eruption of this tragic island's four decade long civil war between Tamils and the Sinhalese there is no doubt that the fiction of the ‘Aryan race' has taken its deadly toll here too.
As for the Middle-East, the role of the Aryan myth in shaping its modern history is quite obvious- through the creation of Israel in 1948. Quite simply put, if not for Nazi obsession with establishing ‘Nordic Aryan purity' in Europe and the consequent Jewish Holocaust there would be no Israel today, the European Jews would still have been in Europe and Palestine might have been the most peaceful place on Earth.
Sure, Zionism pre-dates the Holocaust but then it was also born as an extreme reaction to the anti-Semitism widespread throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. An anti-Semitism that had always existed in Europe for two millennia but which acquired a particularly virulent form with the coming of the Aryan Race myth, which was used by anti-Semitic Christian theologians as a counter to the Jews calling themselves God's ‘chosen people'.
Ironically the early Zionists picked up the dubious terminology prevalent among their worst enemies and insisted that the Jews were one ‘race', thereby lumping diverse people belonging to the same faith into one racial/ethnic category. So today we have people from the north-east Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, thought to belong to the ancient Jewish Bnei Menashe tribe, freely migrating to Israel because they are all supposed to be part of the same ‘race'!
The basis for the creation of Israel, drawing as it does on nineteenth century notions of race and obsession with historical origins, was essentially an inversion of the Aryan myth, with the ‘Jews' replacing the ‘Aryans' at the center of the story. As the ongoing horrific massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza by the Israeli army shows, the net result is equally evil. The madness of Adolf Hitler ironically thrives among the very people he tried to exterminate.

Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health activist. He can be reached at sagarnama@yahoo.com