Rakhigarhi reveals India was never just a ‘refugee colony’, but govt won’t let the nation write its own history

This month, archaeologists discovered a 5,000-year-old jewellery factory in Haryana’s Rakhigarhi village and ruled out external attacks as the reason for the abandonment of this largest Harappan settlement excavated so far.

Last week, on the day archaeologists, discovered a 5,000-year-old jewellery factory in Haryana’s Rakhigarhi village and ruled out external attacks as the reason for the abandonment of this Harappan settlement, I came across an old video by historian-cum-economist Sanjeev Sanyal explaining, through a frisbee experiment, how an economist functions. A normal person would take his dog to the park and let it catch the frisbee on its own. But not an economist, says Sanyal. An economist would first go to the park, measure the wind speed, look at the size and design of the frisbee, and study the breed of the dog. He would put these numbers on the excel-sheet and make a forecast model. He then takes the model to the frisbee policy committee, which provides forward guidance. It is only then that the economist takes his dog to the park for the frisbee experiment. He ties the dog to the place where, as per the study, the frisbee would fall. But, the frisbee misses the spot — and the dog fails to catch it!

This experiment can be applied to the ‘expert committee on history’ in the education ministry mostly comprising babus, whose instant, the inbuilt reaction is to retain the status quo, change only if all options are exhausted, and change as little as possible. So, what does the expert committee do with a new historical finding? The committee spends months on how it would be received by the literati and Twitterati of the world. Will it create controversy? Will it get the government bombarded with abuses? It then opts for cosmetic changes, removes a few words here, and adds a few there. And the history is unveiled, which is both new and old depending on which side of the ideological divide one is standing on.

This explains why the current NCERT history books still resemble the textbooks of the past. A Class XI history book, for instance, still begins with the Harappan civilisation, when there has been ample evidence suggesting that Harappan and Vedic civilisations were the same; that they were the two sides of the same coin; that the Rig Vedic period preceded the Harappan; that the Harappan civilisation flourished as much along the Indus as on the banks of the Saraswati, if not more.

So, how does the government reconcile the differences? Just avoid the controversy by letting the Vedic period go missing altogether. Yes, that’s what our NCERT history textbooks of Class XI-XII have done: There is no chapter on the Vedic period. All that the book says about the Vedic era is: “There were several developments in different parts of the subcontinent during the long span of 1,500 years following the end of the Harappan civilisation. This was also the period during which the Rig Veda was composed by people living along the Indus and its tributaries.”

The fact that Rakhigarhi, currently the biggest Harappan site excavated so far, bigger than Mohenjodaro, wasn’t abandoned because of external attacks (for, there was no attack), is big news, though it’s not new for someone who has been keeping himself abreast with the happenings of Indian history and historiography. Since the 1990s, there has been a substantive pushback against the Leftist-Sarkari historians who, ironically, are busy aping colonial historiography. They look at India as a barren landmass perpetually in search of people from the outside. Before the Europeans, led by the British, found themselves accidentally as the ruling classes in India came to the Muslim invaders. Before they came the Aryans, who, in turn, dislodged the Dravidians and pushed them down South. Lo and behold, even Dravidians were projected as colonisers who had vanquished the indigenous tribes! India, therefore, belongs to all or none of them.

Post-Independence, when India was set to have its history written under the guidance of RC Majumdar, a great communist coup took place under the political patronage of first Jawaharlal Nehru and then, in a more abrasive manner, during Indira Gandhi’s time. Colonial historiography continued unabated, but with the deadly cocktail of communism that ensured the Hindu past is utterly distorted and dehumanised, while the Muslim history is excessively glorified and obsessively sanitised of its gory past. The Aryan invasion theory (AIT), initiated by the British colonial government to divide Indian society, found a large number of desi takers in independent India.

The basic problem with AIT is that it is premised on the assumption that the world was created, as per the Biblical time frame, in 4004 BC. So, after squeezing the millennia-old Indian civilisation within this time frame, it became obvious that the so-called Aryan invasion couldn’t have taken place before 1500-1200 BC. It was a tough job, but Max Muller was up to the task. He was so satisfied with his efforts that he smugly told his wife in a letter that any Hindu reading his translated Vedas would refuse to be a Hindu. No wonder, the East India Company paid him £200 annually, quite a handsome payment in those times.

However, as contrarian evidence started stumbling around and archaeology found new feet in Indian historiography, the idea of invasion started foundering. When the remains of an older civilisation were discovered in Harappa in the early 20th century, colonial historians, with their Leftist partners, worked overtime to reorganise the dates to maintain the sanctity of the Aryan invasion theory. Based on zero evidence, they turned the new archaeological challenge to their advantage: They turned Harappans into Dravidians and gave a racial colour to the entire issue.

All this was done without any literary, philological or archaeological evidence. If anything, literary evidence only corroborates the Out-of-India Theory (OIT). But it’s the new archaeological evidence, especially since the 1990s, that has made the AIT exponents look for cover. So much so that even Romila Thapar, the archangel of the theory, has quietly moved to the Aryan migration theory. In the book, Which of Us Are Aryans?, Thapar writes: “There may have been small-scale migrations motivated by pastoralism and incipient trade, both of which were well-established activities from earlier times.”

As for the AIT’s philological evidence, its limitations have been conceded by none other than Michael Witzel. In his unpublished paper at Harvard University, ‘The Aryan Problem: Textual and Linguistic Evidence from the Rig Veda and the Avesta’, he contends that “a scenario of IE (Indo-European) emigration from Punjab is, of course, possible — the direction and spread of innovations cannot easily be determined unless we have written materials (preferably inscriptions)”.

In contrast to AIT, the migration theory — aimed at withstanding the new archaeological revelations like the one at Rakhigarhi recently — is placed on an even more slippery slope. It defies a basic understanding of human society and language. For instance, how could “small-scale migrations” push aside so easily a society that was more populous, materially more prosperous and scientifically more advanced? And even if they managed to do so, how could the more refined and urbane Harappans leave their language in favour of the one being spoken by largely illiterate nomads? Historically, languages are the stickiest part of a culture/civilisation. The inhabitants of Bengal, for instance, converted a large number to Islam, but they continued to speak Bengali. As David Frawley writes in The Myth of Aryan Invasion in India, “If such a migration was so small and did not have any great impact on existing populations or leave any archaeological record, as is the case, it could not have changed the region on the level of language either, which to reiterate is the hardest and slowest part of the culture to change.”

The AIT’s irony is that it propounds a theory where an urban civilisation that excelled in meticulous town planning and indulged in vibrant commercial activities was bereft of any literature, while illiterate nomadic people possessed one of the world’s profound literary works. It ignores the obvious indications in the Vedas regarding the expansion of the Vedic civilisation from east to west. Even the Nadistuti sukta of the Rig Veda, which invokes 19 rivers, begins with Ganga and Yamuna. Saraswati finds itself in the third position on the list.

Moreover, there’s great affinity and reverence while mentioning these rivers. The Rig Veda addresses them as “my Ganga, my Yamuna, my Saraswati”, and so on. An outsider would never care to address a river so endearingly. Saraswati, often dismissed as a mythical river by several Left-leaning historians, has been profusely praised in the Rig Veda as “the greatest of mothers, greatest of rivers, greatest of goddesses”. This is even though the Vedas specifically locate the Saraswati river west of Yamuna and east of Sutlej. Recent studies suggest the sacred river had dried up by 1900 BC, almost five hundred years before the Vedic people set their feet on the subcontinent, as per the Aryan invasion/migration theory. Seems incredible, but not in communist historiography!

Saraswati finds a detailed mention in the Mahabharata. Michel Danino, in The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati, writes how “the Mahabharata doesn’t miss the opportunity to weave a few legends around the theme of the Sarasvati’s disappearance”. There is a detailed account of Balarama, elder brother of Shri Krishna, going on a pilgrimage along the banks of the Saraswati. Writes Danino, “At length, Balarama reached a spot where ‘although the Sarasvati seems to be lost, yet persons crowned with ascetic success… and owing also to the coolness of the herbs and the land there, know that the river has an invisible current through the bowels of the earth’.”

Much like the recent Rakhigarhi revelations, Danino also brings out in detail the material, cultural and civilisational continuity since the Harappan times. They were the same people and culture.

So, is it all over for AIT? Far from it. For every “revelation”, there’s a “counter-revelation”, howsoever implausible it may appear. The latest is Tony Joseph’s Early Indians (2018) which now takes the recourse of genetics to salvage the theory well past its expiry date. Analysed closely, as Shrikant G Talageri has done in his new book, Genetics & the Aryan Debate (2019), it’s another Leftist rope trick at work by “falling back on a new field of study: Genetics”, after “Linguistics, Archaeology and Textual/Inscriptional Data” failed to salvage the AIT. When in danger of getting exposed, change the goalpost. If nothing else, it would buy you some time for another trick!

Talageri sums up the new genetic theory as such: “The genetic data doesn’t prove any immigration of ‘Aryans’ into India after 2000 BC. The joint testimony of the chronological and geographical data in the Rig Veda and the Mitanni-related documents (and also Avesta), on the other hand, proves that the Indo-European languages were already in India from long before 3000 BCE.”

It’s time we considered the AIT closed. But this seems far-fetched, given the “maybe, perhaps, probably mostly… therefore” methodology used by Left-leaning historians to get the desired result. The above term was used by Arun Shourie in Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud to explain the process of first making a pompous historical claim with a “maybe” and in the end-use the same “maybe” to reach the “therefore” phase of an argument.

But more importantly, in all this, these agenda-driven historians would be inadvertently assisted by our babus and their political masters. Thanks to their status quo nature and fear of controversies, they would ignore the Rakhigarhi revelation: That India was never just a “refugee colony”. Very much like economists who refuse to let the dog catch the frisbee on its own, they just won’t let India write its history.

Author, Source and Image: Utpal Kumar,