South Asia Citizens
01 July, 2003
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
(Thanks, I tell myself, thats
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-Rays 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
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.
Let me explain first with
a little bit of history about the Aryan Race myth itself.
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 Brahmins of ancient India, according to their traditional
lore, were supposed to be descendants of Aryan conquerors who migrated
to India from the highlands of Central Asia, a tale that blended perfectly
with beliefs among European occultists that white Caucasians
too had originated from the same Central Asian mountains. Ergo, the
concept of the Aryan Race as the creator of ancient civilizations was
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 ? Obviously wrong unless I look like Tom Cruise, which
I assure you - I dont. (I dont even look like Woody Allen)
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 without both languages having a common 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.
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 interred 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 contemporary politics of South
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 vicious 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 dont 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 Central Asia.
b) The Vedas, the worlds 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. So we now have courses in Vedic mathematics and
Vedic astrology being taught in Indian universities thanks
to the current Hindu chauvinist regime. 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
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 strategic
alliances with the only existing superpower- America.
In neighboring Sri Lanka
the Aryan myth has played a devastating role in dividing the islands
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 Orientalist
propaganda of the Aryan race theory in the mid-nineteenth century as
having shaped Sri Lankas national consciousness drastically. While
there were other factors also responsible for the eruption of this tragic
islands two decade long civil war between Tamils and the Sinhalese
there is no doubt that the Aryan fable has taken its deadly toll here
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 (barring of course
the chance of Bush Jr. searching for WMDs in Jerusalem!!).
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-Semites, among other reasons, as a counter to
the Jews calling themselves Gods chosen people.
Ironically the early Zionists
picked up the dubious category of race 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 state of
Manipur, 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 clearly the Jewish
myth- an inverted image of the Aryan myth. And when has an evil
ever ceased to be so by merely putting a mirror to it.
Now coming to modern-day Europe, though there are signs of anti-Semitism
on the rise in many countries, I do not think that the Aryan myth is
still taken seriously by many people. (There is nothing like a World
War to cure a continent of bad scholarship!)
But Europe still has a responsibility for the continuing global consequences
of the Aryan Race theory and the anti-Semitism it spurred on in its
past. Let me explain how.
Firstly, it is well known that anti-Semitism was not unique to Germany
and widespread throughout Europe. This is a point worth focusing on,
because the way the history of anti-Semitism and the Second World War
has been popularly told the blame has been simplistically placed entirely
on Nazi Germany whereas a lot more of Europe should be sharing such
Apart from countries in mainland Europe, even in the United Kingdom
and the United States anti-Semitism was rife in those days. (In 1938
four polls showed that up to 85% of the American public was opposed
to increased immigration quotas which would have allowed Jewish refugees
to escape Nazi Germany.)
Also, it has to be recognized
that the way the Aryan Myth and anti-Semitism played out under the Nazis
was only an extension, albeit an extreme one, of the notions of racial
superiority that permeated all of European colonialism. The concepts
of colonialism being a civilizational mission , the
white mans burden, the colonized natives being close to
animals and so on were all precursors to the deadly brew
of fascism that Hitler finally stirred up. (And that is why as the US
elites embark upon their own brazen colonial expedition in Iraq some
of the justifications bandied about sound almost as if the word Aryans
has been just displaced neatly by Americans)
It is interesting to me,
as a citizen of a former colony, that when the blame-game began following
the defeat of the Nazis after the Second World War few scholars took
up the link between fascism and European colonialism. To me it seems
that the upstart that he was, Hitler upset the racist, colonial applecart
by taking it to logical extent with his theories of Aryan superiority
and the practice of holocaust. Basically the fellow thought he would
outsmart his fellow Europeans at what they were doing in their colonies
Thirdly, the logic of the
Allied action at the end of the Second World War vis a vis Europes
Jews seemed to be that a people who had been so grievously wronged by
Europe certainly deserved to have a land of their own --- in faraway
Asia ! (Imagine the much oppressed Kurds getting a homeland in Bavaria.
Why not indeed ?)
I know all about the Balfour
declaration of 1917 (who the hell were the British to promise
Palestine to a handful of Zionists) and also about the 2000 year old
claim of the Zionists to Palestine (sure, and I am now about to grab
some prime real estate in Tashkent).
In the process of accepting
the creation of Israel the Allies also ironically fulfilled, wittingly
or unwittingly, - a long-standing dream of all European anti-Semites
ie. to get the continent rid of the Jews. Amazingly enough, the vanquishers
of the Nazis did with the carrot of Israel what the Nazis failed to
do with the stick of the Holocaust.
In fact, when I as a South
Asian, look at the seemingly perpetual conflict between the Jews and
the Palestinians- one desperately trying to hold on to a new born nation
and the other desperately trying to retrieve an old one- what I see
is a tragic conflict between two sets of victims. The Jews, victims
of European and indeed Western racism/fascism pitted against the Palestinians,
victims of Western colonialism/opportunism. There is nothing more terrible
than two members from the same family fighting each other or the quarreling
of two slaves owned by the same master (there is virtually no evidence
of animosity between the Jews and the Muslims before the early twentieth
Since I have taken so much
of your time explaining the Aryan Connection between India, the West
and the Jewish Holocaust let me take a little more with a modest
proposal towards what a solution to the so called Middle-East crisis
could look like.
It is quite clear to me that
the solution does not lie within the geographical or political parameters
of the middle-east itself. The solution really lies with Europe, which
while pretending to act as a broker of peace between the Jews and the
Arabs- has not yet fully compensated for what its people did to the
Jews of Europe or foisted upon the hapless Palestinians. (This is in
fact particularly true of new Europe which consists mostly
of countries that have conveniently buried their anti-Semitic past in
the fog of the Cold War.)
What Europe needs to do now
is to undo that old Nazi and in fact old pan-European notion of making
Europe free of the Jews to settle the Jewish question.
Wait, I am not saying take the population of Israel back to Europe.
Be more creative- make Israel
along with a newly independent Palestinian state full members of the
European Union. Make the borders meaningless just like in Europe. Of
course, all this with the United States bearing part of the expenses
involved in such an initiative.
Stretch out your hand, be
generous and help the Israelis and Palestinians achieve what the old
warring nations of Europe themselves are doing so brilliantly- bury
their differences and create a new, peaceful future.
As the current round of bloodshed
between the Israeli government and Hamas shows, left to themselves the
Zionists and Palestinian hardliners will enact nothing short of Armageddon
in their ancient land. And already I can hear Adolf Hitler laughing
in his grave, wherever that happens to be, at the prospect of these
non-Aryans doing to themselves - exactly what he wanted
to do to them.
(Satya Sagar is a journalist
based in Thailand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)