Re: [Indo-Eurasia] Re: From 'Ancient Ancestral South Indians (AASI)' to 'Andamanese Hunter Gatherers (AHG)'

Steve Farmer

S. Palaniappan wrote earlier in this thread:

In my opinion, the inconsistent use of ‘AASI’ and ‘AHG-related’ by NSP and the total non-use of ‘AASI’ by SCP shows the origin of the impetus for the use of ‘AHG(-related)’ when it comes to the presentation of results of these studies. I am not saying that Narasimhan, Reich, and others wanted to style NSP this way on their own. I suspect that the Hindutva pressure has forced them to use the mixed terminology they ended up using. After all, as Reich describes in pp. 134-135 of his book, Who We Are and How We Got Here, the designations ‘ASI’ and ‘ANI’ came about due to political considerations.
What Reich says on those pages is unambiguous about the political pressure he caved into, and it happened over 10 years ago, in 2008, not recently.

This is a very old story in Indian Archaeology, as everyone who follows the field knows well. (I personally was a late-comer, knowing nothing about this until the late 1990s.)

But the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has long been dominated by right-wing Hindu (Hindutva) elements. That’s hardly news. Remember the idiocies of Bisht, BB Lal, etc.?

If you don’t, take a look at Sudeshna Guha’s review in Modern Asian Studies from a decade and a half ago (but the story is much, much older):

If you’re an archaeologist and want to dig in India, or if you’re a population geneticist wanting access to the genetic data from digs, you dance or you’re cut out of the action.

The story can be traced back way before Reich was told to dance, as he records in the pages Palaniappan points to above. He only half dances — that’s a Western archaeological specialty — but this is good enough, since he prudently keeps silent about this “sensitive" issue when his Hindutva collaborators, with Shinde in a starring role, go into full twerking dance mode. (Google “twerking” if you don’t know the term.)

As Francesco suggests, Reich doesn’t buy the Hindutva fantasies, which is absurd from any scientific perspective. But he doesn’t criticize it either but stands meekly on the sidelines despite the terrible neo-fascist views those fantasies support.

Here are those pages in their entirety from Reich’s book. You can also find them by going to Google Books here and searching for “The Mixing of East and West” there:

Singh and Thangaraj referred to in the text are Lalji Singh (died 2017) Kumarasamy Thangaraj.


From Reich’s book, pp. 134-5, referred to by Palaniappan
The Mixing of East and West

The tensest twenty-four hours of my scientific career came in October 2008, when my collaborator Nick Patterson and I traveled to Hyderabad to discuss these initial results with Singh and Thangaraj.

Our meeting on October 28 was challenging. Singh and Thangaraj seemed to be threatening to nix the whole project. Prior to the meeting, we had shown them a summary of our findings, which were that Indians today descend from a mixture of two highly divergent ancestral populations, one being “West Eurasians.” Singh and Thangaraj objected to this formulation because, they argued, it implied that West Eurasian people migrated en masse into India. They correctly pointed out that our data provided no direct evidence for this conclusion. They even reasoned that there could have been a migration in the other direction, of Indians to the Near East and Europe. Based on their own mitochondrial DNA studies, it was clear to them that the great majority of mitochondrial DNA lineages present in India today had resided in the subcontinent for many tens of thousands of years.. 21 They did not want to be part of a study that suggested a major West Eurasian incursion into India without being absolutely certain as to how the whole-genome data could be reconciled with their mitochondrial DNA findings.. They also implied that the suggestion of a migration from West Eurasia would be politically explosive. They did not explicitly say this, but it had obvious overtones of the idea that migration from outside India had a transformative effect on the subcontinent.

Singh and Thangaraj suggested the term “genetic sharing” to describe the relationship between West Eurasians and Indians, a formulation that could imply common descent from an ancestral population. However, we knew from our genetic studies that a real and profound mixture between two different populations had occurred and made a contribution to the ancestry of almost every Indian living today, while their suggestion left open the possibility that no mixture had happened. We came to a standstill. At the time I felt that we were being prevented by political considerations from revealing what we had found.

That evening, as the fireworks of Diwali, one of the most important holidays of the Hindu year, crackled, and as young boys threw sparklers beneath the wheels of moving trucks outside our compound, Patterson and I holed up in his guest room at Singh and Thangaraj’s scientific institute and tried to understand what was going on. The cultural resonances of our findings gradually became clear to us. So we groped toward a formulation that would be scientifically accurate as well as sensitive to these issues.

The next day, the full group reconvened in Singh’s office. We sat together and came up with new names for ancient Indian groups. We wrote that the people of India today are the outcome of mixtures between two highly differentiated populations, “Ancestral North Indians” (ANI) and “Ancestral South Indians” (ASI), who before their mixture were as different from each other as Europeans and East Asians are today. The ANI are related to Europeans, central Asians, Near Easterners, and people of the Caucasus, but we made no claim about the location of their homeland or any migrations. The ASI descend from a population not related to any present-day populations outside India. We showed that the ANI and ASI had mixed dramatically in India. The result is that everyone in mainland India today is a mix, albeit in different proportions, of ancestry related to West Eurasians, and ancestry more closely related to diverse East Asian and South Asian populations. No group in India can claim genetic purity.

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