Racial Purity Study: Scientists oppose a study of the Indian population’s ‘racial purity’

Racial Purity Study: Over a hundred leading biologists, historians, anthropologists, and intellectuals have signed a letter to the Ministry of Culture objecting to its alleged plans to fund a study of “genetic similarities and differences in the DNA (genetic) profiles of Indian population groups.”

The Anthropological Survey of India, some scientists at the Lucknow-based Birbal Sahani Institute of Paleosciences (BSIP), and prominent archaeologist Vasant Shinde, former director of the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, were all named in media reports last month.

The Plan was to establish the genetic history in India

The plan, according to the report, was to “establish the genetic history and trace the purity of races in India” by purchasing the most up-to-date DNA sequencing equipment.

Mr. Shinde said in the report that the project’s goal was to look into the “process of genetic mutation and mixing in the Indian population over the last 10,000 years.”

Following an outcry over the news report, Mr. Shinde, who is now an Adjunct Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru and led archaeological expeditions to trace the history of late-Harappan-era skeletons at Rakhigarhi, Haryana, said that his statement was “twisted and fabricated.”

The Ministry of Culture, meanwhile, tweeted that the reports were false and that the project had nothing to do with determining the “genetic history of races.”

While the academics said it was “welcome” that the government had disassociated itself from such a project, they added that “public disavowals” of any current or future race-related project, particularly those involving the study of racial purity, were required.

The concept of biological races was long ago abandoned

The concept of biological races was long ago abandoned, according to the letter. The term “race” was coined in an attempt to divide humans into distinct groups based on physical characteristics like bone structure and skin color, as well as social characteristics like faith and religion. It was assumed that the groups were “natural” or that they had biological significance.

However, all human beings, regardless of where they come from, share the same “gene pool” in terms of the genes that make up individual biological inheritance. According to their letter, the majority of gene-based distinctions occur within so-called races, not between races, and subsequent studies have only bolstered that conclusion.

The concept of “purity”

In addition to being meaningless, the concept of “purity” implies that some groups are “less pure or purer” than others. Human history is littered with examples of heinous injustice – such as denial of benefits or even persecution – perpetrated by “more pure” groups against “less pure” groups. Human racial stereotyping has been abandoned, and no attempt should be made to revive the concept in India, they say.

For decades, human population geneticists and anthropologists at various Indian institutions, including the Anthropological Survey of India under the Ministry of Culture, have conducted detailed DNA analyses of individuals collected from various communities across India, including tribal communities, and have shown that nearly every community today is an admixed community of several ancestral communities whose identities can only be guessed at best, but not with gDNA. “We don’t know what else the Ministry of Culture expects to come out of the project under consideration. However, if it touches on issues of “racial purity,” the authors predict that “one guaranteed outcome will be the exacerbation of disharmony among Indians.” 

Partha Majumdar of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics is one of the prominent signatories.

L.S. Shashidhara, Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana, Ramachandra Guha, Historian and Writer, Raghavendra Gadagkar. Vidyanand Nanjundiah, Centre for Human Genetics, Bangalore, L.S. Shashidhara, Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana, Ramachandra Guha, Historian and Writer, Raghavendra Gadagkar. Rama Govindarajan, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore, and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. 

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