Friday, May 24, 2024
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Ethnic origins: staying with the science

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Editor,
The article by Bhogtoram Mawroh, “History of the sub-continent and the place of the Khasis in it” in the Shillong Times, Apr 20, 2024, makes interesting reading. He also provides a timeline, which is useful to an extent. The reader should keep in mind that such constructions, while acceptable, invariably contain some speculative elements.
He seems to rely heavily on Tony Joseph’s book, “Early Indians”. This is a good book, but Tony is a journalist who merely puts scientific material together, in a layman’s way. The scientific articles that he quotes are written in abstruse scientific terms that few of us can understand. These studies are cautious in their conclusions, and rightly mention alternative conclusions.
The article seems to make the categorical statement that, “the Austroasiatic migration took place from the east”, dating it to around 2000 BCE. There are genetic studies indicating that the earliest Austroasiatic tribes, Munda and Khasi came from the west and much earlier. Bhogtoram himself says, “65,000 years ago: The Out of Africa migrants reached India…and then moved across the Indian subcontinent into southeast Asia, east Asia and Australia.” He neglects to identify them. They were probably the proto-Munda, the first settlers in India, from whom the Khasis later arose, about 10,000 years later. These Austroasiatic languages are the oldest languages in India.
One of my siblings sent a saliva sample to the National Geographic genographic project. A Khasi friend who lives in the UK also sent me his report from the same project. The DNA report that both of them received showed that their ancestral DNA originated from the west. Of course, just because a few studies and a couple of DNA reports indicate a western origin for the Khasis, one cannot be definite about it since there is some evidence to an eastern origin, though these may indicate a ‘return’ migration, since it is dated much later.
I recommend Romila Thapar’s book, “Which of us are Aryan?”. She brings together the fields of historiography, archaeology, linguistics, mythology, anthropology and genetics. Each of these chapters is written by an expert in the field. But both Joseph and Thapar say very little about the autochthonous tribals of India. As for rice, that’s a story for another time.
The letter from Salil Gewali, in the Shillong Times, Apr 17, 2024, it is only an ideological rant. The writer goes to great lengths to debunk the Aryan Invasion Theory, which no one believes any longer. The Aryans, for whom the correct term is Indo-European, came to the subcontinent as migrant pastoralists, not invaders. The mis-spelling of the names of eminent Indians as Mahatma Ghandhi, and Rabindranath Thakur, reduces the credibility of this letter.
But the letter highlights the political hijacking of the science of origins. A great article in Scroll describes this phenomenon well. You may read it at https://scroll.in/article/882497/do-rakhigarhi-dna-findings-debunk-the-aryan-invasion-theory-or-give-it-more-credence
Yours etc.,
Glenn C. Kharkongor,
Via email

“The demagogue in a democracy”

Editor,
The article, ‘An Election Unlike Any Other,’ by HH Mohrmen has hyped up certain aspects of the Voice of the People’s Party (VPP) and portrayed it as the party that ‘clicked with the people. This is somewhat misconstrued. The VPP has, instead more than often, been playing the part of the demagogue. A demagogue is a popular leader of a mob who gains popularity by arousing the common people, kindling their sentiments, whipping up their passions and appealing to their emotions through oratory skills. Many demagogues have demonstrated remarkable skills at moving audiences to great emotional depths and heights. With their silver- tongued speeches they make a show of appearing to be down to earth ordinary citizens and treat complex problems which require patient and thorough analysis as if they can be solved in a jiffy.
The most common methods used by demagogues are : (1) scapegoating, that is, blaming the in-group’s troubles on an out- group usually of a different ethnicity, religion or social class, (2) fear mongering or by evoking fear to stir them to action, (3) lying without regard for factual truth and (4) promising the impossible and hoodwinking the ignorant masses without thinking how their promises will be accomplished. We have to be vigilant against demagoguery and not blindly follow those who claim to be able to take us back to better times and in turn promote their own personal agenda. The secret of the demagogue is to appear as dumb as his audience and make the common people believe themselves to be as smart as them.
Yours etc.,
C. Lyngdoh
Shillong -3

Clarification

Editor,
Please refer to my article, “Kudos to the VPP but to who should Meghalaya prefer” (ST April 18, 2024) where I stated that after the funeral of my mother I talked to three lower primary school teachers who allegedly paid money to get their jobs recently. Let me state very clearly that those three teachers are not from Rangblang village. I did not meet any of them. Those who came for the funeral were also from Mawkyrwat, Nongstoin, Sonaparhar, Shillong. Garo Hills and other places. These three could be from anywhere in the state. I also did not mention whether the teachers are from Government Lower Primary Schools, or Deficit Schools, Ad-hoc or any category for I don’t even know which category they belong to. So let us not presume that these three teachers are all only from Rangblang village.
Secondly, the term ‘recently’ may not mean this year or last year or the year before. In fact, I am not sure when they were appointed. Thirdly I mentioned three. There could be even more having been made aware of more cases. Lastly, when I said ‘I talked to’ it does not mean I talked to them personally. It could have been over the phone or on social media.
Yours etc.,
Albert Thyrniang,
Via email

Candidates & political parties, don’t jump to conclusions

Editor,
Apropos of the news item “Political parties dissect performance after polls” and “NPP awaits report VPP brims with confidence” (ST 21st April 2024) made interesting reading. There is a thing called, “hope for the best and prepare for the worst to come.” When the fate of the contestants is sealed in the EVMs it is next to impossible to say you are winning. My advice to all the parties is to revisit the data of 2023 and see what your strength was and then work your math at the booth level and then come out with the probable numbers. Words can lie but numbers do not lie. Data shows that a nascent regional party won 9 votes out of 100 votes from 18 segments that contested the election in 2023 securing one lakh plus votes. Let us assume that the party increases its vote share by one hundred percent on June 4, 2024 over 2023. One can work out the math and get a figure. It is a pipe dream to win an MP election with two lakh votes given the high percentage of voting of 73.78 percent in the just concluded 1st Phase of the election to the 18th Lok Sabha from 1 Shillong Parliamentary Constituency. The best thing is to keep your fingers crossed and relax till the June 4, 2024.
Yours etc;
VK Lyngdoh
Via email

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