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India: Worrisome to talk of purity of races - Concerned Scholars’s Open Letter to the Ministry of Culture, Government of India

Thursday 30 June 2022, by siawi3

Source: http://mainstreamweekly.net/article12448.html

Mainstream, VOL LX No 25, New Delhi, June 11, 2022


Worrisome to talk of purity of races - Concerned Scholars’s Open Letter to the Ministry of Culture, Government of India

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF CULTURE, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

10 June 2022

The Secretary
Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India
502-C Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi 110001

Sir,

Reports appeared recently in the media to the effect that the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, is funding a project to study genetic similarities and differences in the DNA (genetic) profiles of Indian population groups [1-4]. Professor Vasant Shinde, Adjunct Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, was identified as the leader of this project. Professor Shinde was quoted as saying that the aim of the project is to provide “… a clear-cut idea of the genetic history. You may even say that this will be an effort to trace the purity of races in India.” [2] The reports led to strong criticisms of the project. The Ministry of Culture has tweeted that the reports are “misleading, mischievous and contrary to facts” and that the proposal is in no way related to establishing genetic history and trace the purity of races in India [5]. Professor Shinde has tweeted “I strongly condemn the use of the term Racial Purity by the reporter … My statement is twisted and fabricated by the reporte[r]” [6]. While welcoming these responses, we think that all concerned should issue public disavowals of any present or future project related to race, especially one for studying racial purity. We say so because the notion of tracing the “purity of races”, whether in India or elsewhere, is extremely worrisome. A plan to do so would be both absurd and dangerous.

It is absurd because the concept of biological races was discarded long ago. The term “race” was invented as part of the effort to classify humans into distinct groups based on physical features such as bone structure and skin colour, and social characteristics such as faith and religion. It was assumed that the groups were somehow “natural”, or that they had a meaningful biological basis. However, in terms of the genes that make up individual biological inheritance, all human beings, irrespective of where they come from, share the same “gene pool”. As an epochal paper of 50 years ago pointed out, most gene-based distinctions occur within so-called races, not between races. To quote, “...human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other, with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals” [7]. Subsequent studies have only reinforced the strength of that conclusion [8].

It is dangerous because the notion of “purity,” in addition to being meaningless, carries with it the sense of some groups being less pure or more pure than others. Human history is replete with examples of horrible injustice – denial of benefits or even persecution – meted out to “less pure” groups by “more pure” groups. The same epochal paper also stated “Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations”. Racial stereotyping of humans has been discarded, and there should be no attempt to revive the concept in India.

For several decades human population geneticists and anthropologists working in various Indian institutions, including the Anthropological Survey of India under the Ministry of Culture, have painstakingly undertaken detailed DNA analyses of individuals collected from various communities of India, including tribal communities, and have shown that nearly every community today is an admixed community of several ancestral communities whose identities can at best be guessed, but not with great certainty. What else is expected to result from the project under consideration of the Ministry of Culture, we do not know. But if it touches on questions of “racial purity,” one guaranteed outcome will be the exacerbation of disharmony among Indians.

With regards,

Vidyanand Nanjundiah, Centre for Human Genetics, Bangalore 560100
Partha P. Majumder, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, and Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
L.S. Shashidhara, Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana
Renee Borges, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Saman Habib, CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow
Sutirth Dey, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
Amitabh Joshi, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru
Samar Bagchi, Science Communicator & Populariser
Subha Ray, University of Calcutta, Kolkata
Saikat Chakraborty, Accenture, Kolkata
Sibaji Raha, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Gautam Basu, former Professor, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Leo Saldanha, Environmental Support Group, Bengaluru
Ramachandra Guha, Historian and Writer
Swapan Parui, former Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Debal Deb, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Barrackpore, West Bengal
Asokendu Sengupta, former Member, West Bengal Education Commission
Aruna Roy, Social Activist
Walter Fernendes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati
Indrani Bose, former Professor, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Indira Ghosh, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Utpal Basu, Kalyani University, West Bengal
Ashoke Ranjan Thakur, ex-Vice Chancellor West Bengal State University
Swarnendu Sil, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Amit Apte, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
NG Prasad Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Mohali
Vijay Kumar Krishnamurthy, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore
Mallikarjun Shakarad, Delhi University
Deepa Agashe, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore
Sudipta Tung, Ashoka University, Sonipat
Mewa Singh, Mysore Univesrity
Raghavendra Gadagkar. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Chandan Dasgupta, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore
Aurnab Ghose, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
Satyajit Rath, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
Rama Govindarajan, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore
Hema Somanathan, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Trivandrum
Anindita Bhadra, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
Geetanjali Mishra, Lucknow University
Srikant Sastry, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru
Rajiva Raman, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Sukanta Chaudhuri, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University, USA
Samantak Das, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Partha Ghose, Tagore Centre for Natural Sciences and Philosophy, Kolkata
Niraja G. Jayal, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Achin Chakraborty, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata
Anupam Basu, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani
Sreenivasan Subramanian, Independent Researcher; former ICSSR National Fellow
Supriya Chaudhuri, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Kailash C. Malhotra, Anthropologist, former Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Anup Sinha, Former Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Rajiv Verma, University of Delhi
Amita Chatterjee, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
B.N. Singh, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Mercy J. Raman, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Asok Barman, Former General Secretary, All India Federation of University & College
Teachers’ Associations
Barun Mukhopadhyay, former Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Sugata Hazra, Jadavpur University Kolkata
Mohan Rao, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Udaya Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Shiva Shankar, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Satyajit Mayor, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru
Pradip Kumar Datta, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ayesha Kidwai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
S.Krishnaswamy, former Senior Professor, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai
Sabyasachi Chatterjee, President, All India People’s Science Network
Indranil, Delhi Science Forum and OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
Anil Kumar A, Surgeon, People’s surgical and maternity home, Bagepalli, Karnataka
Avinash Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ritajyoti Bandopadhyay, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Mohali
Guha Dharmarajan, KREA University, Chennai
Subhash Rajpurohit, Ahmedabad University, Ahmedabad
Himender Bharti, Punjabi University, Patiala
Kavita Isvaran, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Vineeta Bal, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune
OP Bhuraita, BGVS, Bhopal
C. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, The India Forum
Udayon Misra
Narayani Gupta, former Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia University
Rahul Roy, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi
Moinak Biswas, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Parthanil Roy, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Mihir Chakraborty, former Professor, University of Calcutta, Kolkata
Ajit Kumar Ray, former Professor, University of North Bengal, West Bengal
R. Ramaswamy, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Irfan Engineer, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
Analabha Basu, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani
Subhas Chandra Lakhotia, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Somdatta Sinha, Retired Scientist and Professor
Ira Bhaskar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
T. Vijayendra, Ecologise Hyderabad
Sagar Dhara, Former Environmental engineering consultant, UNEP
Vikas Bajpai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Kunal Chakrabarti, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
G. N. Devy, Chair, People’s Linguistic survey of India
Harsh Mander, Ex- IAS
Apoorv Anand, Academic and writer, Delhi
Sarmila Chandra, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital and RN Tagore Hospital, Kolkata
Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Former Teacher, Calcutta University
D. P. Kasbekar, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad
Ramray Bhat, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Madan Rao, National Centre for Biological Sciences-TIFR, Bangalore
Amit Roy, Manipal Centre for Natural Sciences, Manipal
Ramasubbu, Sunder, Smolensky Bulvar, 15, Moscow, RF
Ar Vasavi, Brigade Courtyard, Bengaluru
P. P. Divakaran, Riviera Retreat, Kochi
Subramony Mahadevan, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Ganesan Srinivasan, Raman Research Institute (Retired)
Vinod Gaur, Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences
Janaki Nair, Professor, (Retd) Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi
Romila Thapar, Professor Emerita in History, JNU, New Delhi
Naresh Dadhich, IUCAA, Pune
Parthasarathi Majumdar, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science Kolkata
Madabusi Raghunathan, DAE-UM Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, Mumbai
Binod Sreenivasan, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
H. Sharat Chandra, Centre for Human Genetics, Bengaluru
Surendra Ghaskadbi, Prabhat Road, Pune
Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi, Former Professor in Zoology, Utkal University
R. M. Pitchappan, Honorary Visiting Professor-Biology, Madurai Kamaraj University
R. Geeta, Retired Professor, University of Delhi
Jayaram S. Kadandale, Centre for Human Genetics, Bengaluru

References

[1] https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2022/may/28/culture-ministry-to-study-racial-purity-of-indians-2458899.html
[2] http://www.reportwire.in/culture-ministry-to-study.../
[3] https://indusscrolls.com/india-procures-dna-kits-to-study...
[4] https://greatgameindia.com/racial-purity-indians/
[5] https://twitter.com/.../status/1531561797630558208/photo/1
[6] https://twitter.com/profvasant/status/1532295799446482945...
[7] R C Lewontin. 1972. The apportionment of human diversity. Evolutionary Biology 6, 381-398.
[8] M D Edge, S. Ramachandran and N A Rosenberg. 2022. Celebrating 50 years since Lewontin’s apportionment of human diversity. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B377: 20200405.
Culture ministry to study ‘racial purity’ of Indians