The lead article by Romila Thapar in the current number of Social Scientist is a timely one. The Hindutva forces have been gaining ground in the last few years and while much has been written about their political ideology and social outlook, confronting their historical theory which is integral to their weltanschaung with the available historical evidence is a task which has been relatively ignored, perhaps because the vacuity of their historical perception tends, rather unwisely, to be taken too much for granted. The lead article on The Theory of the Aryan Race and India' addresses itself inter alia to this task.
The idea that the common origin 6f Sanskrit and Greek in some proto-language which was an ancestor to both is reflective of a common racial origin of two streams of people that migrated in different directions from an original Aryan homeland in Central Asia, one to Europe and the other to Iran and India, was put forward by Max Mueller. These fair-complexioned Aryans who came south conquered, according to him, the dark-skinned dasas of India and developed Vedic Sanskrit as their language. This theory that the upper castes belonged to the Aryan race, the same as the Europeans, was of course lapped up by the elite, drawn from these castes, for Fanonesque reasons; paradoxically however, it was also accepted, though put to a radically different use, by Jyotiba Phule: the lower castes, he argued on the basis of this theory, were the rightful inheritors of the land and had been dispossessed and subjugated by the invading Aryans.who had constituted themselves into the upper castes. It is in response to this argument that the alternative theory about Aryan origin was put forward by the RSS, namely that there was no Aryan invasion of India and no confrontation among the people of India, that the Aryans were indigenous to India and spoke Sanskrit, and that the Aryan civilisation spread from India to the West. This alternative theory, which received a jolt with the discovery of the Indus civilisation, sought to recover itself by pushing back the date of the Rigveda to 4500 B.C. and seeing Vedic society as the origin of Indian civilisation.
Thapar's paper marshalls evidence not only to critique this theory, but also to give an outline of the plausible nature of the interaction_£roups of migrants, slow moving pastoralists, came over several centuries to
Social Scientist, Vol. 24, Nos. 1-3, January-Mar 1996