"Story of India" Misses the Mark on India's History (press release)
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"Story of India" Misses the Mark on India's History, Hindu Watchdog
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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HAF Director of Public Policy
Email: ishani at hafsite.org
January 10, 2009 (Washington, D.C.)-- Historian Michael Wood's
visually stunning documentary on India's history, "The Story of
India," currently appearing on public television, is reigniting a
bitter debate over the origins of Indian civilization. The Hindu
American Foundation, a prominent Hindu advocacy group based in
Washington, D.C., recorded a deluge of phone calls criticizing Wood's
presentation of the Aryan Migration Theory (AMT).
The AMT theorizes that in 1500 BCE, pastoral tribes that came to be
known as Aryans, migrated from Central Europe to Northwest India
eventually dispersing indigenous peoples and imposing their own
culture. This theory, that is not supported by archaeological
evidence, was first posited by European indologists and British
colonialists, eventually finding support from a section of India's
politically motivated linguists and historians such as Romila Thapar,
and famously, controversial Harvard linguist, Michael Witzel.
In his documentary, Wood holds that the early Hindu practice of
worshipping devas, or demigods representing elements, somehow implies
that these practices were imported from Central Asia. And while
referencing obliquely that the Aryan Migration Theory is
controversial, Wood fails to present contrary evidence that many
scientists believe refutes the claim that the progenitors of Hindu
civilization came from west of the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.
"There is no debate that India was always the cradle of Hindu
civilization, and the Vedas, the Hindu's holiest scriptures, are the
recorded history of our ancestors," said Suhag Shukla, HAF's Managing
Director. "We strongly oppose the insulting theory--advanced by
agenda-driven activist historians--that our rishis, the great sages
who composed the Vedas, were foreign to India, and Wood does viewers a
disservice in not presenting both sides of the coin of the debate, in
an otherwise admirable and beautiful work."
The AMT is reviled by many Hindus due to its implicit proposition that
a tribe of "Aryans" migrated into the Indian subcontinent, subjugated
an indigenous people dispersing them to South India and established a
caste system where the highest castes are comprised of "Aryans" and
lower castes were indigenous peoples--an ethno-religious apartheid system.
This explosive theory that narrates that Aryans were only the first
colonizers--followed by Greeks, Mongols, Turks, Persians--was used by
European historians to justify the last foreign claim on India, the
However, it is the latest genetic evidence, based on chromosomal and
DNA analysis, that scientists believe definitively discredits the AMT.
Studies published in 2006, in the highly reputed Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences and American Journal of Human Genetics,
demonstrate that Y-chromosomal data collected from dozens of Indian
sub-populations and tribal areas confirmed a common ancestry between
all caste groups and tribals. The scientists in both studies concluded
that there was no genetic basis to a claim that any migration occurred
from west of India, and in fact, theorized that a northward migration
may have occurred from India, out to Central Asia.
"Michael Wood clearly admires India and its people, and this shows
through in his passionate depiction of India," said Sheetal Shah,
HAF's Director of Development and Outreach. "We are not seeking to
discredit the "Story of India" in its entirety, but viewers should be
aware that a major error was made in the documentary that fails
scrutiny and should be corrected."
The Hindu American Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, non-partisan
organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding,
tolerance and pluralism. Contact HAF at 1-301-770-7835 or on the web