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Foreign Affairs: Autumn 2008


POLITICS OF THE ARYAN MYTH: GLOBAL BACKGROUND
N.S. Rajaram
Fall of the Third Reich did not put an end to academic race theories that formed
the core of its ideology. In various guises, their legacy continues in Western academia as
well as in the politics of countries formerly under European rule. While avoiding overtly
racial terms, scholars in disciplines like Indo-European Studies continue to uphold
scientifically discredited and historically disgraced theories built around the Aryan myth.
Some academics have resorted to media campaigns and political lobbying to save their
theories and the discipline from natural extinction a tactic that came to the fore when
California education authorities attempted to remove these theories from their school
curriculum. The legacy of racism persists in sectarian politics in South India, and most
insidiously in Africa where it gave rise to the horrific Hutu-Tutsi clashes in one of the
worst genocides in modern history. A singular feature of this neo-racist scholarship is the
replacement of anti-Semitism by anti-Hinduism.
Mutated racism
In a remarkable article, Aryan Mythology As Science And Ideology (Journal of
the American Academy of Religion 1999; 67: 327-354) the Swedish scholar Stefan
Arvidsson raises the question: Today it is disputed whether or not the downfall of the
Third Reich brought about a sobering among scholars working with 'Aryan' religions.
We may rephrase the question: Did the end of the Nazi regime put an end to race based
theories in academia? An examination of several humanities departments in the West
suggests otherwise: following the end of Nazism, academic racism may have undergone a
mutation but did not entirely disappear. Ideas central to the Aryan myth resurfaced in
various guises under labels like Indology and Indo-European Studies. This is clear from
recent political, social and academic episodes in places as far apart as Harvard University
and the California State Board of Education.
Two decades after the end of the Nazi regime, racism underwent another mutation
as a result of the American Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, Americans were rightly made to feel guilty about
their racist past and the indefensible treatment of African Americans. U.S. academia also
changed accordingly and any discourse based on racial stereotyping became taboo. Soon
this taboo came to be extended to Native Americans, Eskimos and other ethnic groups.

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In this climate of seeming liberal enlightenment, one race theory continued to
flourish as if nothing had changed. Theories based on the Aryan myth that formed the
core of Nazi ideology continued in various guises, as previously noted, in Indology and
Indo-European Studies. Though given a linguistic and sometimes a cultural veneer, these
racially sourced ideas continue to enjoy academic respectability in such prestigious
centers as Harvard and Chicago. Being a European transplant, its historical trajectory was
different from the one followed by American racism. Further, unlike the Civil Rights
Movement, which had mass support, academic racism remained largely confined to
academia. This allowed it to escape public scrutiny for several decades until it clashed
with the growing Hindu presence in the United States. Indians, Hindus in particular saw
Western Indology and Indo-European Studies as a perversion of their history and religion
and a thinly disguised attempt to prejudice the American public, especially the youth,
against India and Hinduism to serve their academic interests.1
The fact that Americans of Indian origin are among the most educated group
ensured that their objections could not brushed away by haughty dismissals as the late
historian of science Abraham Seidenberg put it. Nonetheless, scholars tried to use
academic prestige as a bludgeon in forestalling debate, by denouncing their adversaries as
ignorant chauvinists and bigots unworthy of debate. But increasingly, hard evidence from
archaeology, natural history and genetics made it impossible to ignore the objections of
their opponents, many of whom (like this author) were scientists. By the turn of the
millennium, there was an uneasy stalemate, with science chipping away at the edifice of
the Aryan theories with its advocates tenaciously clinging to them and postponing the
inevitable. But in November 2005, there came a dramatic denouement, in, of all places,
California schools. Academics suddenly found it necessary to leave their ivory towers
and fight it out in the open, in full media glare and under court scrutiny. This is what
we may look at next.
Aryans invade California
To summarize the California invasion by Aryan academics: Aryans, a mythical
race of people which science and the defeat of Nazi Germany had consigned to the
fringes of academia and politics found a temporary refuge in the history texts to be used
in California schools. Led by the Harvard based linguist Michael Witzel, a motley group
of mostly European scholars successfully lobbied the California State Board of Education
(CSBE) to save the theory of an 'Aryan' invasion of India from being removed from
schoolbooks. It was to prove a Pyrrhic victory and a public embarrassment; California
education authorities were soon forced to retract Witzels expert suggestions. They also
had to face lawsuits from which they came out badly bruised.

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This was the aftermath of an acrimonious editing process in which Witzel, with
possible support from the California Education Secretary Alan Bersin, put pressure on
California officials to have this scientifically discredited theory included in textbooks.
This curious affair raises doubts about the role played by Secretary Bersin who serves
also on the board of the Harvard Corporation which employs Witzel. Willingly or
unwittingly, Bersin came to be seen as the fulcrum of support for Witzel and his
colleagues in their dubious campaign that went on to embarrass both Harvard and the
California Department of Education.*
While the media covered the story as a case of newfound assertiveness on the part
of the Hindus, Witzel and his colleagues claimed they were motivated solely by
objectivity and scholarly integrity. According to them it was a case of faith against
scholarship. The cloud of controversy though tended to obscure the real story of a
desperate campaign by Witzel and his colleagues to save the Aryan myth, which happens
to be central to the academic discipline known as Indo-European Studies. Indo-European
is a politically correct euphemism for Aryan. (Another is Caucasian.)
It all began innocently enough, when Grade VI textbooks used in California
schools came up for revision in 2005. Some Hindu, Islamic and Jewish groups objected
to the way their religions were depicted in some of the textbooks. Hindus objected also to
the history portion for including the scientifically discredited, nineteenth century theory
of the Aryan invasion of India. California school authorities asked the Hindu groups
along with others to suggest suitable changes.
After some discussions, mostly with regard to the format, the California
Department of Education (CDE) released a memorandum detailing the changes submitted
to the State Board of Education (CSBE) on November 8, 2005. It was at this point that
Michael Witzel intervened uninvited. On the very next day, November 9, CSBE
President Ruth Green read out a petition submitted by Witzel and co-signed by 46 other
scholars claiming to be experts on India, objecting to the edits suggested by the Hindu
groups charging they were unscholarly and politically motivated. Changes submitted by
Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups were passed without discussion, but Green withheld
those submitted by the Hindus. She went a step further and appointed Witzel to a supercommittee, to review the changes relating to Hinduism and India. All its members had
actively colluded with Witzel in his propaganda and lobbying campaign.

This has since been found to be unfounded. Alan Bersin had no part. The initiative seems to have come
from some publishing companies concerned about increased costs and some California education officials
unhappy with the editorial changes. They found in Witzel a willing tool.

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It was a mystery how Witzel, within a day, could get so many signatures from all
over the world. Most petitioners were from Europe with nothing at stake in what
California schools teach their children. A few (non-Europeans) later retracted. This
suggests that Witzels move was pre-planned, helped by insiders and not a 24-hour
wonder. It was soon apparent that the signatories, including Witzel himself, had not read
the changes they were objecting to. He was coy about it when questioned at a public
meeting in Harvard, claiming that the subject was sub judice. (This was because of
lawsuits filed against the CSBEs flawed and illegal review procedure.)
The next meeting in January 2006 was held in secret, from which Hindu groups
were excluded. Witzel took advantage of the secrecy to reverse many of the changes.
While some of it related to Hinduism, it became clear that his real concern was saving the
Aryan invasion theory from being axed. Witzel trumpeted the outcome as a victory, but
the celebration proved to be premature. The unusual procedure by which it was done and
Witzels own unscholarly language and rhetoric landed the California Department of
Education in several law suits. A judge hearing the case slammed the CSBE for following
underground procedures using hostile academics. Witzel too paid a heavy price, being
increasingly seen as less a scholar than a propagandist and political lobbyist. His
credibility as scholar stood shattered.
Given Education Secretary Bersins position at Harvard, Witzels immediate
appointment to the super-committee with virtual veto power over the contents comes as
no surprise. The real question is what Witzel and Bersin hoped to gain by having the
disgraced Aryan theories taught in California schools. To see this one needs to recognize
the precarious state of the discipline called Indo-European Studies. It is a nineteenth
century European creation that has been losing ground to science. Witzel and his
European colleagues are among its last holdouts. Both students and funds have been
declining in the department where Witzel teaches. As a member of the Board of
Overseers of the Harvard Corporation Bersin has responsibility for fund raising.
Ever since Witzel moved to Harvard from Europe (he is German by birth), its
Department of Sanskrit and India Studies has been in a state of turmoil. He was forced to
step down as department chairman in 1995, following student complaints about his
conduct. Enrica Garzilli, whom Witzel had brought in as a faculty member was fired by
Harvard as unqualified. She sued the university. Witzel himself threatened to sue a
student for asking some questions. Now Hindu parents and groups have sued the State of
California for violating their childrens civil rights. Curiously for an academic, legal
troubles seem to dog Witzel wherever he goes.

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We may never know who initiated Witzels California campaign whether Alan
Bersin gave Witzel a chance to redeem himself following his disastrous performance at
Harvard, or if Witzel saw an opening to get students and funding with Bersin at the helm
of the Department of Education in California. Email traffic surrounding IER (IndoEurasian Research), an Internet group co-founded by Witzel, suggests that the idea came
from some of its members, possibly one Steve Farmer, Witzels closest associate
following Enrica Garzillis expulsion from Harvard. Farmer lives in California from
where he has been reporting on developments in the state.
Problems at Harvard are part of a wider problem in Western academia in the field
of Indo-European Studies. Several Indology departmentsas they are sometimes
calledare shutting down across Europe. One of the oldest and most prestigious, at
Cambridge University in England, has just closed down. This was followed by the
closure of the equally prestigious Berlin Institute of Indology founded way back in 1821.
Positions like the one Witzel holds (Wales Professor of Sanskrit) were created during the
colonial era to serve as interpreters of India. They have lost their relevance and are
disappearing from academia. This is the real story, not teaching Hinduism to California
children.
Witzels California misadventure appears to have been an attempt to have his
version of Indian history and civilization introduced into the school curriculum in the
hope that some of them may later be drawn into his department when they graduate.
Otherwise, it is hard to see why a senior, tenured professor at Harvard should go to all
this trouble, lobbying California school officials to have its Grade VI curriculum changed
to reflect his views.
To follow this it is necessary to go beyond personalities and understand the
importance of the Aryan myth to Indo-European Studies. The Aryan myth is a European
creation. It has nothing to do with Hinduism. The campaign against Hinduism was a red
herring to divert attention from the real agenda, which was and remains saving the Aryan
myth. Collapse of the Aryan myth means the collapse of Indo-European studies. This
is what Witzel and his colleagues are trying to avert. For them it is an existential struggle.
Americans for the most part are unaware of the enormous influence of the Aryan
myth on European history and imagination. As previously observed, while the defeat of
Nazi Germany put an end to its political influence, it has survived in various guises in
Western academia under the umbrella of Indo-European Studies. This was the point
raised by scholars like Stefan Arvidsson cited earlier. Central to Indo-European Studies is
the beliefit is no more than a beliefthat Indian civilization was created by an
invading race of Aryans from an original homeland somewhere in Eurasia or Europe.

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This is the Aryan invasion theory dear to Witzel and his European colleagues. According
to this theory there was no civilization in India before the Aryan invaders brought it a
view increasingly in conflict with hard evidence from archaeology and natural history.
The politics of Aryanism
Given the Aryans importance to their worldview, it is extraordinary that after two
hundred years of voluminous outpourings, these scholars are unable to identify them.
Originally they were claimed to be a race related to Europeans but science has discredited
it. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, scholars avoid overtly racial arguments but the
basic idea of an invasion by Europeans bringing civilization to India is retained even if
they acknowledge that ancient Indian records know nothing of any such invasion. All we
have are dogmatic assertions of their central belief. According to the late Murray
Emeneau, a leading figure in Indo-European linguistics: 2
At some time in the second millennium B.C., probably comparatively early in the millennium, a
band or bands of speakers of an Indo-European language, later to be called Sanskrit, entered India over
the northwest passes. This is our linguistic doctrine which has been held now for more than a century
and a half. There seems to be no reason to distrust the arguments for it, in spite of the traditional Hindu
ignorance of any such invasion. (Emphasis added.)

This is typical of the field, with arguments closer to theology than to science.
Aryans are needed because there can be no Aryan invasion without the Aryans and also
no Indo-European Studies. It is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Scientists had long ago dismissed the idea of the Aryan race. As far back as 1939,
Sir Julian Huxley, one of the great biologists of the twentieth century wrote: 3
In England and America the phrase Aryan race has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific
knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist literature. In Germany, the
idea of the Aryan race received no more scientific support than in England. Nevertheless, it found
able and very persistent literary advocates who made it appear very flattering to local vanity. It
therefore steadily spread, fostered by special conditions. (Emphasis added.)

These special conditions were the rise of Nazism in Germany and British
imperial interests in India. Its perversion in Germany leading eventually to the Nazi
horrors is well known. The fact that the British turned it into a political tool to make their
rule acceptable to Indians is not generally known. A recent BBC report acknowledged as
much (October 6, 2005): 4

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It [Aryan invasion theory] gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj,
who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had
done thousands of years earlier.

That is to say, the British presented themselves as new and improved Aryans
that were in India only to complete the work left undone by their ancestors in the hoary
past. This is how the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin put it in the House of
Commons in 1929: 5
Now, after ages, the two branches of the great Aryan ancestry have again been brought together
by Providence By establishing British rule in India, God said to the British, I have brought you and
the Indians together after a long separation, it is your duty to raise them to their own level as quickly
as possible brothers as you are

All this makes abundantly clear that theories based on the Aryan myth are modern
European creations that have little to do with ancient India. The word Arya appears for
the first time in the Rig Veda, Indias oldest text. Its meaning is obscure but seems to
refer to members of a settled agricultural community. It later became an honorific and a
form of address, something like Gentleman in English or Monsieur in French. Also, it
was nowhere as important in India as it came to be in Europe. In the whole the Rig Veda,
in all of its ten books, the word Arya appears only about forty times. In contrast, Hitlers
Mein Kampf uses the term Arya and Aryan many times more. Hitler did not invent it. The
idea of Aryans as a superior race was already in the air in Europe, not India. 6
Indo-Europeans: elusive or non-existent?
To understand Witzels California campaign we need to place these Aryan
theories in their historical context as part of some European thinkers striving to give
themselves an identity based on their history and folklore. In his recent book Aryan Idols:
Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science (2006, University of Chicago)
Swedish scholar Stefan Arvidsson tells us:
For over two hundred years, a series of historians, linguists, folklorists, and archaeologists have
tried to re-create a lost culture. Using ancient texts, medieval records, philological observations, and
archaeological remains they have described a world, a religion, and a people older than the Sumerians,
with whom all history is said to have begun.

These are the mythical Aryans, now being called Indo-Europeans. After two
hundred years of intensive search, they remain elusive, while science has shown them to
be non-existent. But Indo-European scholars have not given up on them. Just as they

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created an Aryan invasion without Aryans they have created Indo-European Studies
based on the non-existent Indo-Europeans. As Arvidsson observes:
No objects can definitely be tied to them, nor do we know any Indo-European by name. In spite of
that, scholars have stubbornly tried to reach back to the ancient Indo-Europeans, with the help of bold
historical, linguistic, and archaeological reconstructions, in the hopes of finding the foundation of their
own culture and religion there.

The only literature we have that goes back to such antiquity is Indian literature.
But Europeans of the colonial era could not conceive of an Indian source for their culture.
India was taken out of Indo-European Studies, and made the recipient of European
thought, culture and even language via the Aryan invasion. In Arvidssons words: The
theory about India as the original home of the Indo-Europeans, and the Indians as a kind
of model Aryans, lost supporters during the nineteenth century, and other homelands and
other model Aryans took their place instead. (Emphasis added.)
The Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) and their homeland were gradually moved
westward until they were made to settle in Eurasia and even Germany. In the hands of
German scholars, Aryans and their language became Indo-Germanische. It is this
worldview, and its academic incarnation calling itself Indo-European Studies that Witzel
and his colleagues are fighting to save from extinction.
To summarize, the goal of Indo-European studies is not so much to understand
India as it is to show that there existed a rich German mythology that could
successfully compete with classical Judeo-Christian traditions. It is hardly surprising
that anti-Semitism was tied up with it. Now anti-Hinduism has now taken its place. This
anti-Hinduism too is more cultural than religious, like anti-Semitism in pre-War Europe.
Its goal is to detach their mythical Indo-European ancestors from India, just as prewar Aryan theories sought to erase the Judaic heritage of Christian Europe. This
lies at the root of the ideological abuse (in Arvidssons words) that Indo-European
Studies has been guilty of:
There is something in the nature of research about Indo-Europeans that makes it especially prone
to ideological abuse perhaps something related to the fact that for the past two centuries, the
majority of scholars who have done research on the Indo-Europeans have considered themselves
descendants of this mythical race.

This ideological abuse reached its climax in the Nazi regime. The recent
California campaign must also be seen in the same light: ideological abuse in the name of
scholarship to support a worldview combined with a concern for survival.

For a brief, transient period, advocates of the Aryan myth succeeded in saving
their theory from being axed, but in the process they have undermined the credibility of
the textbooks and public confidence in the California education system. The wide
publicity that their campaign received and the law suits that followed have dealt a severe
blow to teacher morale. The real victim in this farcical tragedy is not Hinduism, which
will survive the assault, but the children of California who have been used as pawns in
the struggle for survival of a discredited academic discipline and its priesthood.
An African tragedy: Tutsi invasion theory
While race theories have led to stereotyping and academic and ideological abuse,
they are also guilty of horrendous crimes. The Nazi Holocaust is justly infamous, but not
many are aware of their contribution to the more recent Hutu-Tutsi conflicts in Africa.
What Indologists could not do in India with their Aryan theories, ethnologists succeeded
in doing in Africa with their race-based Tutsi invasion theory trigger genocide. Here is
the story in brief.
When we look at the map of middle Africa, we see two little countries named
Rwanda and Burundi, bordering on Zaire (or the Democratic Republic of Congo). Few
Indians know the recent history of these unfortunate countries or the cause of the recent
catastrophes that engulfed them. As reported in the Western media, these countries are
inhabited by two supposedly different ethnic groups, the so-called Hutus and Tutsis. The
ethnic composition of these two countries is as follows.
Rwanda:

Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmies) 1%

Burundi:

Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa 1%

In other words, their compositions hardly differ at all. But according to Western
anthropologists, mainly colonial bureaucrats and missionaries, the Tutsi are supposed to
be a Hamitic people, a race that was often intermixed with the whiter races of the North,
notably from Ethiopia and Egypt, which in their turn were intermixed with some West
Asiatic people, mainly the Hittites, by repeated invasions from the North. These people,
the Tutsis, are supposed to have arrived from the North and not native to Rwanda. The
analogy to the invading Aryans is immediate and striking, but doesnt stop here.
The majority of Hutus are said to be Bantu, of original African race, which spilled
out from the middle of the West African coast of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo,

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Benin, Cote dIvorie (Ivory Coast) and the inland countries of Burkina Faso and its
neighbors.
In this scenario, which has no factual support, the Tutsis (like the Aryans) are
foreign invaders or migrants in the Rwanda-Burundi region. The Hutus, like the Indian
Dravidians, are said to be much older people, but not the original inhabitants. The
original inhabitants are said to be the Pygmies (or Twa), who constitute barely 1 percent
of the people. The interesting part of the theory is the role assigned to the Tutsi minority.
They are made into a superior race of invaders, just like the Aryans, and supposedly
constitute the aristocratic elite and the oppressors of the Hutu majority.
According to this theory, the minority Tutsi have subjugated the indigenous, but
not too indigenous (compared to the Pygmies) Hutus for centuries and forced them into
the inferior position of agriculture. Now the key notion: Hutus and Tutsis are really two
completely separate races, with the black Hutus forming the oppressed majority, and
their relatively fair invaders, the Tutsi, forming the oppressors.
This in essence is the Tutsi invasion theory, the African version of the Aryan
invasion theory. The similarities are startling, even to the extent of the Dravidians in
India being preceded by earlier inhabitants, the aborigines (the so-called adi-vasis), who
have their African counterpart in the Pygmies. So we have the African Pygmy-Hutu-Tutsi
sequence corresponding to the Indian aborigines-Dravidian-Aryan scheme.
It is a curious experience to look at the political evolution of this grotesque theory
and its monstrous fallout. Until the coming of the Europeans, the Tutsis and the Hutus
never saw themselves as different. Nor were they engaged in any racial wars. With the
European scramble for Africa, Rwanda-Burundi became part of the short-lived German
East Africa. After Germanys defeat in the First World War, it became part of the Belgian
colonies in Africa. This notion of the Tutsi-Hutu racial difference began to be drilled into
the natives by colonial administrators, some academics (not unlike present day
Indologists) and missionaries known as the Pere Blancs (White Fathers). (There are no
Pere Noirs or Black Fathers.) They invented the Tutsi invasion theory and labeled the
Hutus as the victims of Tutsi invasion and oppression.
It is worth noting that this period, between the two world wars, was the heyday of
race theories in Europe. It seems the notion of superiority due to difference in skin
colorimagined in this caseis indelibly ingrained in the European psyche. Its politics
has collapsed, not due to any dawn of enlightenment on its proponents but the defeat of
Nazi Germany. It has continued however in Western academia as Indo-European Studies
and in other guises.

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As with the Aryan theories and their various offshoots, this Tutsi-Hutu division
has no factual basis. They speak the same language, have a long history of intermarriage
and have many cultural characteristics in common. Differences are regional rather than
racial, which they were not aware of until the Europeans made it part of their politics and
propaganda.
The division if any was occupational. Agriculturists were called Hutu while the
cattle owning elite were referred to as Tutsi. The Tutsi, like the Indian Aryans, were
supposed to be tall, thin and fair, while the Hutu were described as short, black and
squat just as the Indian Dravidians are said to be. Since the Tutsi today dont fit this
description, scholars claimed that their invading ancestors did. They offered no proof but,
being based on no evidence, their claim cannot be disproved either. In fact, it is
impossible today to tell the two people apart. They are separate because government
records carried over from colonial days say so.
This fictional racial divide was created and made official by colonial bureaucrats
during Belgian rule. The Belgian Government forced everyone to carry an identity card
showing tribal ethnicity as Hutu or Tutsi. This was used in administration, in providing
lands, positions, and otherwise playing power politics based on race. This divisive
politics combined with the racial hatred sowed by the Tutsi invasion theory turned
Rwanda-Burundi into a powder keg ready to explode.
The explosion came following independence form colonial rule. Repeated
violence after independence fueled this hatred driven by this supposed ethnic difference
and the concocted history of the Tutsi invasion and oppression. Some 2.5 million people
were massacred in this fratricidal horror of wars and genocides. Unscrupulous African
leaders, like the self-styled Dravidian politicians of India, exploited this divisive colonial
legacy to gain power at the cost of the people. Hutu leaders described the Tutsis as
cockroaches, telecasting their tirades on the radio during the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis.
This led ordinary Hutus to massacre the Tutsis en masse in a bid to annihilate them
completely.
So a peaceful, placid nation with a common populace, sharing a common
language, culture and history was destroyed by colonialist, racist concoction called the
Tutsi invasion theory. It was entirely the handiwork of colonial bureaucrats, missionaries
and pseudo-scholars building careers on the discredited notion of race.
It is of course no coincidence that ideas that led to the Holocaust in Europe should
have led to genocide in Africa. The disgrace is that they continue to exist in Western

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academia in various guises, ready to come out of the closet at an opportune moment. This
is what was seen during the recent California school curriculum revision.
History lesson: transplanting the poison tree
Why should we learn all this? Because the Tutsi invasion theory has ominous
parallels to the Aryan invasion theory and the Aryan myth, which scholars are trying
desperately to save using linguistics or, Indo-European Studies or some similar fig-leaf.
Sectarian tension and violence, thankfully not on the same horrific scale, was incited
between North- and South Indians by self-styled Dravidian parties like the DMK,
AIDMK and their many offshoots and incarnations. These are the poisonous legacy of the
colonial-missionary-racist offspring.
Why did India not go the way of Rwanda-Burundi? Not for lack of trying but
because the cultural foundation of Hinduism proved too strong. It defeated the designs of
politicians and propagandists masquerading as scholars. It is no coincidence that Rwanda
and Burundi had been converted to Christianity, preparing the ground for sectarian
conflict. Several church figures, including priests and nuns have been found guilty of
complicity in the Tutsi massacres. As in India, Christianity was a colonial tool and
missionaries little more than imperial agents.
Their failure in Hindu India is also what is behind the visceral anti-Hinduism of
Witzel and his colleagues. It came to the fore during the recent California school
controversy. This is enhanced by the fact that Hindu scholars have been at the forefront
of exposing their designs and debunking their scholarly claims. An Internet group (IER or
Indo-Eurasian Research) co-founded by Witzel has been doing little more than spewing
venom at Hindus and their practices, in language and style that bear comparison with
Nazi era publications like Julius Streicher's Der Strummer.
They may have been defeated this time, but there is no room for complacency.
The divisive politicians of India and their friends and colleagues in academia can come
together to defend the Aryan-Dravidian divide. California last year was an example of
such an unholy nexus. 7 Had Witzel and his colleagues succeeded in planting their
poison tree in California schools, it would have become fertile ground for
demagogues to turn the ethnically diverse California into a powder keg of
animosities.
This brand of pseudo-scholarship cannot survive once their Aryan theories end up
in the dustbin where they belong. Recognizing this, their advocates no longer engage in
debate but resort to name calling. Any opposition to the Aryan theories is denounced as

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emotional, chauvinistic, and the handiwork of Hindu nationalists and fundamentalists.
Like the artificial Aryan-Dravidian divide, the Tutsi-Hutu divide is also denied by
respectable scholarship, including Western scholarship. Are we to denounce theseand a
million Tutsi victims of the genocideas the handiwork of these nationalistic chauvinistic
Tutsis who deserved their fate?
The Aryan mythand its advocateshave both been exposed, but it would be a
serious error to assume that it has been put to rest. Bad ideas have a way of resurfacing
especially when self interest is at stake. Writing about the persistence of superstitions like
belief in witches and witchcraft in Europe, Charles Mackay, in his famous book
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of Crowds observed (1841):
So deeply rooted are some errors that ages cannot remove them. The poisonous tree that once
overshadowed the land might be cut down by the sturdy efforts of sages and philosophers; the sun may
shine clearly upon spots where venomous things once nestled in security and shade; but still the
entangled roots are stretched beneath the surface, and may be found by those who dig. Another King
like James I [a self professed expert on demonology] might make them vegetate again; and more
mischievous still, another Pope like Innocent VIII [who initiated the Inquisition against witches] might
raise the decaying roots to strength and verdure.

One may add that scholars and academics are no more immune to the lure of
obscurantism than medieval popes and kings, especially when their survival is at stake.
With their base crumbling in Europe, these purveyors of hate are looking for fresh soil in
places like California to plant their poison-bearing trees.
Acknowledgement: I am grateful to Sri Pankaj Saksena for valuable information relating
to the Tutsi invasion theory and its legacy of horrors.
NOTES
1.

2.

3.
4.
5.

Curiously the very success of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States has helped these
European race theories by shielding them from scrutiny. In the U.S., Aryan theories are associated
with fringe groups like the Ku Klux Klan, not prestigious institutions like Harvard. It must be
added that this is not official Harvard policy but a negative fallout of academic freedom, with a
tenured faculty member misusing his position. Still one hopes that Harvard authorities can reign in
someone who is increasingly a blot on its liberal image.
Quoted in Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization: History, science and politics by N.S.
Rajaram (2006), New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, page 31. The original source (cited in the book) is
not easy to access.
Op. cit. p. 127. Some recent claims of a genetic basis for the Aryan invasion are easily refuted. See
Sarasvati River (Op. cit.) for a discussion of the current state of Aryan theories.
Op. cit. p. 128.
Ibid.

14
6.

7.

It is important to note that Hitler and the Nazis appropriated their ideas and symbols from
European mythology, not India. Hitlers Aryans worshipped Apollo and Odin, not Vedic deities
like Indra and Varuna. His Swastika was also European (Hakenkreuz or hooked cross) not
Indian. It was seen in Germany for the first time when General von Luttwitzs notorious Erhardt
Brigade marched into Berlin from Lithuania in support of the abortive Kapp Putsch of 1920. The
Erhardt Brigade was one of several freebooting private armies during the years following
Germanys defeat in World War I. They had the covert support of the Wehrmacht (Army
headquarters).
Several fringe groups from the Communists to those claiming to represent Christian Dalits (an
oxymoron) ranged behind Witzel in his campaign. The court dismissed them and their claims.