Indian culture started when the British arrived: tales of shadology

When looking at Google Scholar after reading the paper on South Asian pigmentation, I came across this work, The Unfair Selection: A Study on Skin Color Bias in Arranged Indian Marriages:

Underlying the growing popularity of skin-lightening or fairness cosmetics in India is one of the most baseless biases experienced and practiced. Yet, the overriding importance of skin-color especially in context of marriage has been largely unaddressed. This exploratory study examined the influence of skin-color on preference for potential marriage partner. A 2 × 2 (gender × skin-color) between-group experimental design was used. Mothers (N = 108) of individuals of marriageable age group were presented with an option of five marital profiles containing education and work information only. The participants were shown profiles of either males or females depending on whether they had a son or a daughter. Once a profile was chosen, the participant was either shown a photograph of highly attractive fair girl/boy or a highly attractive dark girl/boy. The light-skinned and dark-skinned photograph was of the same person, except their skin tones were manipulated with the use of computer software. Participants were asked to rate how strongly would they recommend the girl/boy as potential bride/groom for their children. As expected, fair-skinned highly attractive people received higher ratings than dark-skinned highly attractive people. However, contrary to our expectations, ratings received for dark-skinned woman were not significantly lower than the ratings received for dark-skinned man. This study shows that the color of skin has the potential to even overpower traits such as general competency and physical attractiveness in both men and women.

The subjects are from the Indian capital. The surprising result is no sex difference. I’m not too interested in the paper’s primary result, but the introduction and discussion, which frames the preference for light skin historically, is of interest.

From the introduction:

While Black scholars in the Unites States have thoroughly examined the link between racism and colorism, there is paucity of information tracing the historical roots of skin-color discrimination in India (Parameswaran & Cardoza, 2009a). Internalization of superiority of fair/white skin has been related to the combined influences of colonialism, caste system,
and globalization. Many South-Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and so on were ruled by the British for around 200 years; “white” race was the ruler and the “dark” native were the ruled. This led to internalization of superiority and power of the “white” skin and inferiority and powerlessness of the “dark skin” (Speight, 2007). Internalized racism reveals itself in a variety of situations from work environment to social situations where people of color reject or denigrate those with dark-skin. The caste system in India is likely to have given impetus to the notion of superiority of fair skin-color brought by colonial rule (Parameswaran & Cardoza, 2009b; Shankar & Subish, 2016). Higher castes have been perceived to be “fairer” and superior while lower castes have been perceived to be “darker” and inferior. Today, in postcolonial world, globalization has led to increased spread and acceptance of Western beauty ideals in Asian and African cultures (Hunter, 2011; Peltzer, Pengpid, & James, 2016).

First, the Muslim West and Central Asians who arrived in South Asia, described it as a pattern where white people conquered black people. These people were quite aware that South Asians were not black in the way Sub-Saharan Africans were. There were black Africans in the armies of the Muslims, as the Siddi community demonstrates. Nor did the Iranians, let alone the Turks, consider themselves to be of the same people as the Europeans.

But when it came to the metric of skin color, the Muslim ruling class of South Asia was disproportionately very light in complexion and described themselves often as white. The natives were described often, though not always, as black (though more often obviously as “Hindus” or whatnot). When Europeans arrived they did not come as conquerors, but as supplicants to the great Mughal and the other powers. They perceived themselves to be white, just like the elite Muslims, as opposed to the dark-skinned native Indian population, which was mostly, though not exclusively, non-Muslim.

As the 19th century proceeded Europeans, and in particular the British, developed a refined, narrow, and simultaneously biological and cultural conception of whiteness which excluded West and Central Asian Muslims. But this was a process and does not negate the fact that the ruling elite of South Asia was disproportionate of the Muslim religion and very light-skinned in comparison to the populace as a whole for many more centuries than British rule occurred.

Second, “higher castes” are not perceived to be lighter in complexion. The data is clear: higher castes are on the whole on average lighter in complexion. Just as people from the north, and west, of the subcontinent, are lighter in complexion than people from the south and east. This is not a perception dictated by ideology, but biology.

As for whether Brahmins have become “higher” castes recently, my understanding is that they have always been a high caste, and that the British did not give them their high casteness. To be frank, Indian social heirarchies do not need the imprimateur of white Europeans to come into existence, ex nihlo.

And genetics makes it clear that castes seem to have been separated and distinct for around ~2,000 years or so in South Asia. Even before the Muslims!

Now, I don’t know enough about South Asian history and culture to comment on this part:

Thus, skin-color is related to social hierarchy in India; fair skin is often considered to be a mark of higher social standing. However, it is important to note that historically and culturally, dark not white skin was considered to be ideal and desirable in India. Some notable examples are the popularity of God Krishna (literally black) and Draupadi (also called Krishnaa), a character from the epic Mahabharata. Krishna is worshipped in many parts of India whereas Draupadi was considered to be one of the most desirable women in the world. The transformation of ideal skin-color from dark to fair can be traced to the influence of caste system, British imperialism, and global hegemony of whiteness. The caste system also called varna (literally color) accounts for the perceived superiority of fair skin over dark. Owing to the association of fairer skin with upper caste and darker skin with lower castes, skin-color came to signify the social position of an individual in our society. In addition, the racist construction of “dark native” by the British seems to have become a part of our unconscious and is often projected as strong dislike for the “dark other” (Parameswaran & Cardoza, 2009b).

I would be curious about the idea that dark skin was preferred to light skin. The historical genetics makes it clear that lighter invasive populations seem to have arrived and placed themselves on top of darker populations, with some mixing before caste crystallization.

Finally:

The popularity of some dark-skin colored Bollywood actresses like Bipasha Basu, Kajol, Deepika Padukone, and so on suggests that masses are likely to accept a dark-skinned woman if she is perceived as highly attractive.

I do understand that Indian actresses use make-up (or lightening cream) to make their complexion seem fairer than it would otherwise be…but it is clear none of these actresses are actually dark-skinned in the broader South Asian context. They are at best of average complexion.

Now, perhaps you will tell me that I spend time only with kala-batchas or something, I really don’t know. But this whole paper is soaked in postcolonial anti-Western delusional discourse…and then it ends in the shadological delusion that these average complexioned actresses are actually dark skinned! Average South Asians are not light brown, they are medium brown. Medium brown actresses are not dark-skinned, they are dark-skinned for actresses (which is fine, but a different thing than being representative of the population).

Go to Google Images and type “dark-skinned Indian actress” and then “dark-skinned black actress.” In the latter case, the actresses are genuinely dark-skinned. In the former case, only a minority are actresses with the complexion of Sharon Muthu.

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65 thoughts on “Indian culture started when the British arrived: tales of shadology”

  1. Lol at calling Deepika dark-skinned. She is considered a fair-skinned Brahmin in Bangalore.

    It seems the author is from Delhi and so her perception might be skewed.

    I have been called a “fair north Indian” after moving to Bangalore, which is ironic because all my life I was considered dark by my relatives as compared to my father’s “divya gora-pan” (divine whiteness, a term I’ve heard used nonchalantly).

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      1. Haha. I think she’s reading too much from just a couple of examples (Krishna and Draupadi).

        As an aside, she should hook-up with some data scientist from Tinder to get access to good quality revealed preference data.

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        1. I think the difference in perception matters, i feel even a middle caste (Yadavs,Jats) as well as occasional dalit/STs (Meenas) is on average fairer than their caste contemporaries in South India. So a punjabi brahmin is already shades lighter than Kannadiga Brahmin. Thats why there is a bit of difference of opinion as to what passes as “fair” in North/South India.

          As to whole Krishna/Draupadi thing , its a larger movement in India by born again Hindus( Shashi Tharoor ) where feminist retelling of Drauapdi/Sita etc is par for the course. This is just a continuation of supposedly “good” elite hindus trying to reapporaite and “Indianize” their work since the “dark” forces have taken over.

          Lol. A fight which they have already lost.

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          1. Saurav, if you read the full Mahabharata (in my case 12 volume translation), Draupadi comes across as an extremely empowered and powerful woman.

            As Krishna’s wives asked Draupadi and I am paraphrasing . . .
            the world knows that not only do your husbands never beat you, but they always do what you tell them, how do you do this?

            There are many types of femnism. Ancient Bharat had its own type of femnism. But it was different from first wave, second wave and third wave feminism as understood now. Between the three waves it was closest to the first wave of western feminism.

            Ancient Arya Varsha had a type of fierce Mataji matriarchal femnism. The elite woman were very powerful and ran the ancient world.

            But poor woman who were not perceived as intelligent, mentally healthy, physically attractive or educated were not.

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          2. I don’t like lumping different pleothera of janjaatis(tribes) under ST (ST itself is a vague constitutional construct imo. ST doesn’t exactly mean oppressed,depressed,bench-pressed moolnivasis ). You have burushaski speaking Burusho in kashmir who under GOI are classified as ST but their history is markedly different from,lets says Gonds. Tomorrow if the Kalasha people decide to migrate to India , they would be classified as ST :). You are right about Meenas. Have seen quite a few light eyed, skin Meenas. (It seems that Meenas used to quite powerful in the past till they were classified as a criminal tribe. Even today they are quite influential in the areas where they are the majority.) Besides, there’s no lack of fair skinned ‘tribals’ in the south for eg Todas :).

            AnAn, when you talk of Ancient Arya Varsha
            1. Which period are you talking about?
            2. Which area are you talking about ? From what i know, aryavarta was only the area east of indus, north of vindhyas, south of himalayas and west of bengal.

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      2. most of the paintings in Ajanta – Ellora (2nd century BCE to 1st century CE) exclusively depict darker shade figures.
        Even If you read prakrit literature of that time you will come know that even Indian elites at that time (brahmins, kshatriya, buddhist, Jains) had very different notions of aesthetics and beauty than their modern day descendants.

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      3. Setting aside this inane sidetrack, what caused the Indians to fetishize light skin?

        Was it the stratification by caste that accelerated this? If a population was introgressed with a small ANI admixture that causes expression of this feature in select people, and the population is stably stratified but grows over time, can a polygenically-expressed feature have a broader variation (than a completely well mixed population) leading to large SD; and this caused the desire for the top 10% of the people?

        That is my model, but I have no math to support anything.

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  2. I think Central Asian/ Moghul/ British rule certainly ramped up white colour preference by many degrees. Before that black was kept on equal footing if not better.
    For example read Marco polo in 14th century south India

    The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 3/Chapter 18

    The children that are born here are black enough, but the blacker they be the more they are thought of; wherefore from the day of their birth their parents do rub them every week with oil of sesame, so that they become as black as devils. Moreover, they make their gods black and their devils white, and the images of their saints they do paint black all over.[5]

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    1. There were remnants of dark skinned “preference” when growing up. Dark was considered “book smart” whereas Europeans and Eurasians were considered good at speaking English but not grammar and “book smart”

      Names with Kalu (black) are prevalent, eg Kaluwitharana, Kalutantri and just plain old Kalu. Not heard of late, Maha Kalu Sinhalaya (big black sinhalese) as point of pride.

      Also growing up 60’s early 70’s common to see toddlers covered with oil and in the sun between 7am-9am. I gather my mother did the same for me too, only what was used was olive oil. Sesame (gingelly) oil was considered “Tamil”. Sesame oil was not common/popular with the Sinhalese. They would remark on the health benefits of sesame oil and use coconut oil.

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        1. Kalu did pioneer pinch-hitting at the top of the order (there were people like Srikanth and even Tendulkar before him, but he took things to a new level.) But then Jayasuriya started to emulate him and got much better at it (see the stats), so I think their relative ratings were deserved.

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  3. Not exclusive to upper middle class India, though perhaps more pronounced, is for the underclasses to be invisible. This may partly explain why the perceived mean skin tone is shifted.

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  4. I think some are obsessed too much with this thing. Probably surroundings has the influence. English are hypocritical winging racists (although they publicly do not show) not only towards those who are not white than towards some whites too, even towards lower classes compatriots. We should not forget that they, not Germans, invented and practised Nazism and conc-lagers. I could imagine the consternation on their faces if one brown pundit for example tells them that he is the Aryan and they are not.

    … At the beginning of our supervisory meeting I offered an Indian student a coffee. No, thanks. Tea? No, thanks. In confidence, he explained me that he does not drink coffee because he would become darker. What do you drink? Milk.

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    1. “We should not forget that they, not Germans, invented and practised Nazism”

      What color is the sky in your world?

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      1. Apparently, your knowledge of history is very shallow and based on brainwashed and fabricated official EU history. I don’t want to use this space here but I would suggest one thread dedicated to this topic or I will write at Open Thread. In meantime, have a read a little bit about Nazzy movement in England which was inspiration for Hitler.

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  5. I cannot speak for Indians generally, but my own experience growing up in Kashmir is that darkness of skin tone is not considered good (also associated with ill-health or physical labour). Though neither is paleness of the English/N European type.

    V occasionally though, Kashmiris can be quite light skinned, though this is NOT the norm, and also E Asian like. Kashmiris are mid-to-light brown on average.

    Couple of my paternal cousins can easily pass for Europeans – one of them is even married to one and my half-Dutch half-Kashmiri nephew looks indistinguishable from any native N European. Though other cousins (mum’s side) look a little E Asian. So did my maternal great grand father.

    E Asian features seem common among caste Hindus of the Himalayan regions as far as I can tell.

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  6. “clear that castes seem to have been separated and distinct for around ~2,000 years or so in South Asia. ” — Razib, regarding this comment , wouldn’t this be an extremely generalized statement considering mixing would vary depending upon the kingdoms in power as there are records of making warriors out of peasants ? For example , this paper http://www.pnas.org/content/113/6/1594 detects a much more recent admixture in Marathas with ASI/AAA like population which possibly coincides with Rashtrakutas empire.
    The other thing is the different marriage patterns of north vs south. North indians don’t practice cousin marriages however in south india cross cousin and even uncle niece marriages can be common.

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    1. td, can you write more about this? And the latest academic literature?

      I am curious about when Jati (nepotism) and Varna connected.

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  7. “Underlying the growing popularity of skin-lightening or fairness cosmetics in India is one of the most baseless biases experienced and practiced. ”

    Maybe I am an idiot who knows nothing. But I always thought fairness or light-skin was a measure of physical attractiveness. Most people are not that complicated. Usually the simple answer is the correct one.

    Is physical attractiveness baseless? To make this claim needs an understanding of the brain and nervous system and how to change their response to sensory inputs (which in turn causes secretions of chemicals from glands). Ancient cultures and religions greatly studied this. But is less studied and understood currently. Some economists and neuroscientists study this. But they are afraid of getting noticed by wacko post modernists in liberal arts and demonized.

    “Yet, the overriding importance of skin-color especially in context of marriage has been largely unaddressed.”

    Not true. Families deeply value physical attractiveness on the part of potential mates for their son or daughter. Most Deshis have heard a lot of discussion of potential mates for relatives. The reason for the focus on colorism is to find a more handsome or beautiful mate. Perhaps it is also associated with veiled health correlations, but not so much. Until recently most young marriageable age people were shy and didn’t directly discuss their perceptions of beauty or studliness. I found it hilarious how family members thought they knew who the marriageable age person would find physically attractive. Mostly they hadn’t the slightest clue. In practice young people didn’t measure attractiveness by colorism as much as their elders did.

    Even bigger than fair skin was how tall someone was. [“Tall-ism” is worse than colorism in my opinion.] People who were fat were even more heavily discriminated against than short people and dark skinned people. Fat people were not considered “hot”. This families papered over by claiming that heavy people were bad long term health prospects.

    Dumb liberal arts post modernist academics should leave studies of colorism to actual data scientists, economists and neuroscientists. “Colorism” is a study of what human beings find physically attractive.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    “there is paucity of information tracing the historical roots of skin-color discrimination in India”

    No there is not. There has been a deep discussion of skin-color in literature going back thousands of years.

    “Internalization of superiority of fair/white skin has been related to the combined influences of colonialism, caste system, and globalization.”
    How so? Caste system . . . is this author a dolt? Caste system and Varna has nothing to do with skin color. Varna has many meanings. One meaning is color. But Varna traditionally means the qualities/temperament/preferences or Gunas of a person. Physical attractiveness proxies such as skin color are very low on the list of measured qualities. But they do matter.

    Varna was described as a meritocratic system based on capacity and competence. But at some point nepotism seeped in and people started being promoted to Varnas on the basis of Jati or ancestors. At some point unqualified people whose parents belonged to a particular Varna stopped being thrown out of their family’s Varna. Similarly at some point it became harder for people to be promoted to a certain Varna without a particular Jati.

    The partial fusion of Jati and Varna is what some now call caste. When this fusion took place is not known. Some genetic studies imply 1900 years ago. But I would be interested in a lot more research in this area from across the Hindu parts of the world. I don’t think the science is settled.

    This is a long way of saying that Varna, Jati and caste are not related to colorism. Rather Jati and caste are related to nepotism.

    On the question of globalization . . . hmm. It is possible that modern global entertainment and media subconciously is affecting how human brains and nervous systems interpret physical attractiveness along many parameters, skin pigmentation being one of them. This needs to be studied data scientists, economists and neuroscientists. I don’t understand why colorism matters beyond physical attractiveness.

    “Colonialism” . . . this strikes me as bizarre. Does this mean colonialism by the Hindus or Aryans? If so, this is nonsense. How did muslim invaders change the correlation between perceived physical attractiveness and colorism? Unclear.

    The English per perceived as meritocratic and competent by Indians. This worship of the English (as opposed to Americans and other Europeans) continues on the part of India’s older generation. It is possible that subconciously skin color became associated with merit, capacity and competence because of the English. The English were also considered physically attractive.

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    1. AnAn,I remember when we were being taught basic Sanskrit alphabets/sounds , there were ‘Swara Varna’ and ‘Vyanjan Varna’. In that sense, ‘varna’corresponds to atomic unit of alphabet/sound which can’t be further divided (pardon me for not being able to describe it in a much better way as my english is quite weak 🙂 ). I was not aware of the ‘varna’ and color connection.

      As for skin color preference , both too dark and too light/pale seem alien to me.

      AnAn, as for jaati and varna, atleast in the gangetic plains, position of most endogamous jaatis across the four fold varna was not there when the british arrived(probably the effect of mughals and sultanates but i think it might also be due to vaishnavism) – this is what i get after reading colonial census. It’s pretty funny how Narsimhan’s paper called Bhumihars as brahmins when they were just landlords and when the british colonial census classified them as shudra after which they protested. Besides, there are some differences in north vs south marriages practices as i wrote. From a glance of the paper razib posted, most of the jaatis with high IBD score tend to be from south(i will try to understand and see which groups are having high IBD) . I also wrote earlier how there are recorded instances of making warriors out of peasants during different kingdoms( another example would be the creation of soldiers Pattnaik soldiers between 9th – 13 th century by the Kesari dynasty of Kalingas. The above paper doesn’t seem to have jaatis from Kalinga/Utkal region so m quite dissapointed.)

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      1. “there were ‘Swara Varna’ and ‘Vyanjan Varna’. In that sense, ‘varna’corresponds to atomic unit of alphabet/sound which can’t be further divided (pardon me for not being able to describe it in a much better way as my english is quite weak 🙂 ).”
        100% agree. One of the many meanings of Varna is color. But only in so far as color is yet another quality. Varna is a reference to the qualities. In your example sound qualities.

        “As for skin color preference , both too dark and too light/pale seem alien to me.” Exactly.

        “atleast in the gangetic plains, position of most endogamous jaatis across the four fold varna was not there when the british arrived(probably the effect of mughals and sultanates but i think it might also be due to vaishnavism) – this is what i get after reading colonial census. It’s pretty funny how Narsimhan’s paper called Bhumihars as brahmins when they were just landlords and when the british colonial census classified them as shudra after which they protested. ”

        Agree completely. My suspicion is that Jati started to merge with Varna in response to Islamist invasion. But even this was not uniform. There are large exceptions. Several Upanishads and the Gita all describe Varna as based on quality rather than Jati or birth. Because of this Varna and Jati did not fuse everywhere. We need a more nuanced understanding.

        “I also wrote earlier how there are recorded instances of making warriors out of peasants during different kingdoms( another example would be the creation of soldiers Pattnaik soldiers between 9th – 13 th century by the Kesari dynasty of Kalingas. The above paper doesn’t seem to have jaatis from Kalinga/Utkal region so m quite dissapointed.)”

        There are many examples of Vaishyas, Shudras or Avarnas being promoted to Kshatriya. This appears to have been common for very good soldiers. Thank God . . . because militaries need to be meritocratic based on capacity and competence.

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      2. It’s pretty funny how Narsimhan’s paper called Bhumihars as brahmins when they were just landlords and when the british colonial census classified them as shudra after which they protested.

        the bhumihar samples i’ve seen look just like UP/bihar brahmins genetically fwiw.

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        1. Razib, not denying their genetic similarity to the UP/Bihar brahmins though i was a bit surprised(the bhumihar samples in Narsimhan’s paper were from Muzzaffarpur it seems) but my point was that bhumihars didn’t exist as brahmins (they WERE NOT the custodians of vedic texts ). They existed as zamindars/landlords ( bhumi itself means land). Their claim of brahminhood(or rather BrahmKshatriya-hood lol) came much later . What i was trying to say is that the DharmaShastra based four-fold varna system can’t capture all the endogamous jaatis. Some of the jaatis(castes) can be considered as separate religions for eg Lingayath.

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    2. Anan, at an individual level the aesthetic preferences vary as they should. We are not discussing AnAn’s likes and dislikes; whether it assumes larger social or political dimensions like a particular skin colour is perceived by some or many to be correlated with skills, character, culture or what have you.

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    3. “Varna was described as a meritocratic system based on capacity and competence.”

      > Aryans had in their old homeland meritocratic system. How this system influenced the situation in new homeland it needs to be researched. For example, much later in ancient Greece was introduced a tribal system. It was highly corrupted system where you could get anything for some amount of money. Demosthenes, for example, who was untalented orator bought the position of Athene’s mayor. Such corrupted and deeply immoral system could sustain based on large numbers of slaves. In Athene 130 th free citizens had 5 th elected officials, 6 th judges and 100 th slaves. This system was named democracy (ruling of people, i.e tribes) and remained until today. Serbs never had slaves in their history and because they did not bring slavery system to Hindustan. The SA history would be very different if it was otherwise.

      “The English are perceived as meritocratic and competent by Indians…The English were also considered physically attractive.”

      > Perception could be a very strange thing. The ‘continental’ perception is different. Even Germans, who are perceived by continentals as dumb, think about English as idiots. Above all as sneaky hypocrites and eccentrics. Neither girls nor guys are perceived as attractive in comparison to Polish, Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Russians, etc.

      “It is possible that modern global entertainment and media subconsciously is affecting how human brains and nervous systems interpret physical attractiveness”

      > That’s true. Let’s remember examples of Michael Jordan, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, etc who are perceived as very psychically attractive.

      > The fact not discussed in this context are ‘laws’ of aesthetics. Some writers wrote that people are driven by the ‘low’ of beauty and explain how perceptions of beauty applies regardless if the subjects are some shapes and colors of buildings, coffee mugs, shoes, horses or humans.

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      1. ” It was highly corrupted system where you could get anything for some amount of money. ” — Haha, it sounds like UP and Bihar(the gangetic plains of India) to me.

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  8. It is quite plausible and there is literary evidence that the strong preference for not just light skin but a Western provenance dates from the times of Arab, Turkish invasions. The Mughals continued this tradition looking up to Persian culture and ideals of beauty.

    Even today, my anecdotal experience is that Pakistanis look down on dark skin while identifying themselves as light skinned. Aatish Taseer in his writings about meeting his Pakistani step-siblings mentions their jokes about him “at least not being a dark skinned Indian”

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    1. Well Aatish siblings did inherit there racist attitude from the father. The liberal racist like Ayub Khan

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    2. Why are we discussing Pakistanis? Are Pakistanis to blame for the popularity of “Fair and Lovely” among Indians?

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      1. calm the fuck down asshole. when this was tweeted one of the first responses was a joke from my pakistani friend zack ajmal about how pakistanis like to talk about how they are more light-skinned than indians.

        doesn’t the NHS distribute meds?

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          1. bro, if you constantly act a like a prickly asshole, perhaps you might reflect on why others respond to you in kind.

            (this post was inspired by a discussion with a pakistani american woman and her complex related to her skin color)

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          2. There is no doubt that Pakistanis have a complex about skin color. However, I was just pointing out that the mention of Pakistanis on this thread seemed rather random. “Fair and Lovely” is doing a roaring business in India.

            Some of you guys have a need to bring up Pakistan up regardless of the context. It’s kind of sad actually.

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        1. The way it’s going I feel it will be soon the other way round. Even with the treaty in place Indus system is drying up and it looks bleak for both north India and pakistan.

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  9. “Just as people from the north, and west, of the subcontinent, are lighter in complexion than people from the south and east.”
    People in the NW are lightest , people in the east are the second lightest. The tribal areas and the extreme south are the darkest.
    ttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.svg/1280px-Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.svg.png

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  10. “Upper castes are on average lighter skinned than lower castes.”

    Isn’t this a rather arbitrary distinction, given that castes have historically moved around in the hierarchy, i.e. Patels and Kayasthas?

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    1. “Upper castes are on average lighter skinned than lower castes.”
      Brahmins from UP,MP, or Bihar are not that much lighter than mid-caste south Indians. And of course Patels or Kayasthas are of similar skin tone as Brahmins.

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    2. no idea. why is caste rank and color correlated then? i know the idea is that castes moved around a lot, but clearly some of the groups at the top have long been at the top and vice versa (eg brahmins and dalits)

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      1. “why is caste rank and color correlated then?”
        Razib, that is a good question that I have often asked since I was a child. I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that in people’s conscious aware minds the two are not connected.

        For some reason some Jatis that happened to have less pigmentation phenotype chose to try to become twice born. And many Jatis that happened to have more pigmentation phenotype opted out of being twice born.

        The ancient world was based on freedom. Many didn’t want to become twice born with all the Sadhana daily practice requirements, responsibility and hard work that entailed. Many wanted to eat, drink and be merry. These tended to avoid joining a twice born Varna. It is also possible that their ancestors belonged to a different religion/philosophy (such as atheism).

        But the question remains why did dark pigmentation Jatis opt out?

        Note that many of the greatest sages in eastern philosophy were Shudra or Avarna (no Varna). Many avoided Varna altogether–which was a freedom that people were entitled too. Many felt that opting out of Varna dharma was beneficial for their spiritual progress or personal progress.

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        On a separate note I wonder about the difficult daily Sadhana requirements for the twice born. Were these designed in part to improve physical health, mental health and intelligence? Although they seemed like a major waste of time to some.

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      2. Razib is right. Caste and skin tone have correlation. Also this idea that castes moved around a lot in exaggeration. Very few castes grouping did (kayasth , Marathas) The most you have is a obc just piercing the lower end of upper caste grouping or a lower obc in one state a sc in another or a sc in one state as ST is another

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        1. “Also this idea that castes moved around a lot in exaggeration.”

          There are many examples in the old narratives of moving around as you put it. And there are many stories of great Rishis who were Avarna or Shudras.

          Many genuinely don’t want to join a twice born Varna or globalization or modernization. For example many Adivasis. I am thinking of writing an article about it. But to understand why Adivasis and Vanavasis did not want to join a Varna or move out of the Vana or forest, you can watch:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXo_NPjH4XA&t=2042s

          To join Varna is to want to join a meritocratic hierarchy based on capacity, competence based on specialization of labor. In other words what today might be called modernization, capitalism or globalism. Many people want nothing to do with these things and to opt out.

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          1. ” But to understand why Adivasis and Vanavasis did not want to join a Varna or move out of the Vana or forest” — A great number of so-called STs live around the central parts of india which were not exactly centres of civilization. Urban civilizational centres were primarily the indo-gangetic plains, the indus region, western and eastern ghats. In between you have plateaux with dense forests. Besides, why would one want additional people in their kingdom unless there’s need for militarization ?
            Even today CRPF guys have a tough time getting acclimated to the forests & highlands of red corridor which the naxals are extremely familiar with :).

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        2. “Caste and skin tone have correlation.”
          It has a correlation but not always. UP Brahmins are not much lighter than South Indian middle caste groups or Gujju Patels or Eastern Indian middle caste groups or Bangladeshis.
          Here are High caste UP Brahmins :
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=751SjGBtNsw

          Here are middle-caste Telugu :
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfvcANRkb-o

          Here are Bengali Brahmins:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e7qwzQTgQg

          Here are Bengali Muslim:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRmdCKvgpyY

          Gujarati Patels:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as8hUY3iXws

          Brahmins might have high steppe but they also have lots of AASI and Austroasiatic. Non-Brahmin non-Dalit south Asians have lots of Iranian Farmer alongside AASI.

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        3. “Caste and skin tone have correlation.”
          Maybe or Maybe not. The fact is there are very little difference between UP Brahmin, middle caste-South Indians(Except Tamil Nadu Maybe), Gujju Patels, Bengali Brahmins,Bangladeshis, Marathis ect. Their skin tone is very similar.

          Just look these videos.

          UP Brahmins:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=751SjGBtNsw

          Middle caste Telugu:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfvcANRkb-o

          Bengali Brahmin:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e7qwzQTgQg

          Bangladeshi Muslim:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRmdCKvgpyY

          Gujju Patel:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as8hUY3iXws

          Brahmins have high steppe but also lots of AASI and austroasiatic. Non brahmin non Dalit groups have lots of Iranian farmer alongside AASI. I believe tropical environment also played a key role.

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      3. I think it would be safe to say that, for the most part, Brahmins have always been at or near the top of the hierarchy while Dalits were on the bottom. But I speak of the various castes in between. I find it extremely difficult to believe that all castes are perfectly genetically and phenotypically aligned with their so-called Varna, and that this has been the case for thousands of years.

        As for the “color scheme” associated with Varna, one of my professors claimed that this was not referring to the color of skin, but rather to the color of the food each caste was expected to eat. Your mileage may vary on to how believable this is, but I find it somewhat more plausible than the oft-believed skin tone explanation.

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  11. “Just as people from the north, and west, of the subcontinent, are lighter in complexion than people from the south and east.”

    People in NW are lightest, In the east people are lighter than peninsular Indians. The extreme south and Tribal areas are the darkest.
    Most of North-Central and Eastern Indians or basically Indo-Aryan groups are in between Kashmiris and Tamils in term of skin tone.
    1-Kashmiris and Pathans.
    2-Punjabis, Balochis and Sindhis.
    3-Gujratis, Marathis, People from BIMARU , Bengalis and Assamese.
    4-Telugus, Kannadigas, Malayalis and Sinhalese.
    5-Tamils.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.svg/643px-Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.svg.png

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  12. “Caste and skin tone have correlation.”
    Maybe or Maybe not. The fact is there are very little difference between UP Brahmin, middle caste-South Indians(Except Tamil Nadu Maybe), Gujju Patels, Bengali Brahmins,Bangladeshis, Marathis ect. Their skin tone is very similar.

    Just look these videos.

    UP Brahmins:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=751SjGBtNsw

    Middle caste Telugu:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfvcANRkb-o

    Bengali Brahmin:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e7qwzQTgQg

    Bangladeshi Muslim:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRmdCKvgpyY

    Gujju Patel:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as8hUY3iXws

    Brahmins have high steppe but also lots of AASI and austroasiatic. Non brahmin non Dalit groups have lots of Iranian farmer alongside AASI. I believe tropical environment also played a key role.

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    1. “Caste and skin tone have correlation.”

      no dude, this is why i fucking posted data! they have a correlation. it’s not “views differ.”

      i don’t give a shit about videos. i give a shit about supplementary tables.

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      1. if I understood correctly, people with high Mean Melanin Index have darker skin. UP Brahmin 44.6 is higher than Reddy 43.34. Bihar SC are darker so of course caste and skin tone have correlation. I was talking about non-brahmin non-dalit groups like Telugu Reddy/Naidu or Gujju Patel ect.

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  13. I have read enough of early British colonial literature to form the opinion that modern theses that British were responsible for forging Indian caste consciousness and associated racial prejudices have a grain of truth in them. You can find these theories taking shape in front of your eyes if you care to read the colonial literature when Indians were “Asiatics” and Hindus were “Hindoos” and Muslims were “Mahomedans”.

    If we read ancient and medieval Indian literature, one will be hard pressed to find a definite reference to fair skinned being equated to higher social status. Some stereotypes did exist, such as broad forehead = intellectual, large (female) eyes = beautiful etc, but fair skin wasn’t particularly noted to command a premium. In fact I know of texts where Kshatriyas (a high, and arguably more prestigious varna than brahmins) were described in adulatory terms as dark skinned.

    Admittedly among the Muslims the correlation of fair skin to higher social status was more pronounced. This was probably because elite Muslims retained the memory of their foreign origins and days of rulership. Among them the fair skin was a signature of their foreign origins.

    When British landed their large and populous empire in India, they were overwhelmed by the shear magnitude and variety of its population. In order to make sense of it all, they started categorizing communities to better understand and administer them. Crank anthropologists measured various things like head perimeter, nasal lengths and widths, skin tone etc to neatly order the Indian society in easily understandable categories. That is when they noted a correlation between lighter skin and higher social status. Similar theories like division of Indian society between marital castes and non-martial castes went had in hand. Once they formalized their theories, Indians lapped it up with gusto, and the preference for fair skin became more deeply ingrained in their consciousnesses.

    Even the caste hierarchy with its neatly linear progression of higher to lower castes is something of a British creation. Ancient and medieval Indians castes were more horizontally structured, with each caste claiming higher status than the other, and access to political power being the ultimate arbiter. Caste rankings rose and fell with the access to political power.

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    1. +1008 Snake Charmer

      Comment of the day.

      Actual Jati pre European didn’t neatly fit into Varna. The idea that they did was European.

      India had Jati vadi.
      India had Varna vadi.
      The two were not identical. Although they started becoming more so after the arrival of Islam and after the arrival of Europeans.

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    2. English were such racists? You left me flabbergasted. What is the sky above the Polish guy?…
      … Re – Muslims…I remember that many Muslim women in Bosnia used strong skin-whitening make-up. They sometimes looked like zinc-ed cricketers on the pitch. For me it was unexplainable considering that they were ethically the same as Christian women. On the street you could distinguish Muslim women even some of them had Christian cousins.

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        1. > I think – Shashi rather than Malhotra.

          From Guardian:

          An Indian politician drew robust applause from the Q&A audience when comparing Winston Churchill to “some of the worst genocidal dictators of the 20th century” because of his role in a catastrophic famine in Bengal.

          Shashi Tharoor’s emphatic critique of British rule in India resonated during a discussion in which global thinkers and authors debated the moral status of the west and responses to racial, gender and economic inequality in the era of Donald Trump.

          The Indian diplomat-turned-author and opposition MP also told the ABC show, that the world might have to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea, and that the nonproliferation treaty of superpowers was “the last existence of apartheid in international law”.
          Tharoor said while Kim Jong-un was a “Stalinist dictator putting his people in great misery and poverty”, his bellicose pursuit of a nuclear arsenal in defiance of Trump’s threats appeared a “rational” form of “insurance against regime change” given what happened to Saddam Hussein.

          Tharoor said Churchill’s veneration as a heroic British wartime leader and defender of freedom was miscast in light of his complicity in diverting food stocks from India amid widespread starvation. He noted Churchill’s orders applied to Australian ships bearing wheat at Indian docks.

          “This is a man the British would have us hail as an apostle of freedom and democracy, when he has as much blood on his hands as some of the worst genocidal dictators of the 20th century,” Tharoor said to applause.

          His expansive account of British colonial exploitation and destruction of time-honoured Indian industries such as textiles, reducing it to “a poster child of third world poverty” by the time the British left in 1947 was also well-received.

          Tharoor said the “excuse that apologists of British empire like to make is, it’s not our fault, you just missed the bus for the industrial revolution”.

          “Well, we missed the bus because you threw us under its wheels,” he said, again to applause.

          The British writer Laurie Penny said that “young Britons of every class have no idea about our colonial past” as the “graphic facts of what the British did around the world, including to the people of this country” had been deliberately concealed from them.

          “The crimes of the British over 400 years of pillage and conquest is something that we don’t like to think about and yet it is everywhere in modern British history,” she said.

          Penny said it was “stunning to me” that the major fear among Brexit supporters seemed to be that “people will come to our country and take our things”.

          “It doesn’t compute. We don’t know this history,” she said.

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    3. “Ancient and medieval Indians castes were more horizontally structured, with each caste claiming higher status than the other, and access to political power being the ultimate arbiter.”
      I find that hard to believe. In Mahabharata, which surely predates the British and Muslims by thousands of years, Droupodi refused to marry Karna because he was a Sutputra. Karna was humiliated in the tournament of weapons because he was not of warrior caste. Is there any example in all Indian literature where a ‘lower’ caste refused to marry a Brahmin or a Khastrya because they were beneath the ‘lower’ caste? I do not know but if caste hierarchy is modern then surely there should be lot of incidents in traditional literature how the other castes rejected, humiliated the ‘top’ castes!

      1+
      1. Awesome that you read the Mahabharata.

        Note that this story is not in the full unabridged version (of which I have a twelve volume translation) of the Mahabharata except for one or two regional northern recensions (and not in the southern recensions):
        https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-happened-during-Draupadi-Swayamvar-Why-was-Karna-rejected-Was-Shri-Krishna-present-Did-Shri-Krishna-suggest-this-rejection

        My opinion is that the line:
        “Na Aham Varayami Sutam” [not I marry Suta]
        is a later interpolation added to the Mahabharata.

        There are many lines in the old Itihasas, Valmiki Ramayana and 18 Maha Puranas that I suspect to be later interpolations. Including one line by Rama in the Valmiki Ramayana when Rama is harshly critical of Chaarvaaka (atheism). Rama debates with Jaambaali (Dasharata’s senior minister). But a later line out of meter with the rest of the text was added to harshly critique Chaarvaaka.

        Still you are right that although Karna was promoted to Kshatriya Varna, many were jealous of him, and tried to insult and mistreat him. This was a type of Jati racism/bigotry/prejudice that every country has suffered from from the birth of our species 400K ish years ago. Karna overcame all of this and through merit becomes one of the most respect and admired Kshatriyas in the world. This is an excellent example for how all of us should respond to people who:
        —do not respect us
        —do not love us
        —do not like us
        —are racist/bigoted/prejudiced towards us
        —are hegemonic/imperialist/colonialist towards us
        —exploit/oppress us
        —do not think we are smart, wise, good or powerful

        “Is there any example in all Indian literature where a ‘lower’ caste refused to marry a Brahmin or a Khastrya because they were beneath the ‘lower’ caste?”
        Yes there are. For example Yayati and Damayanti (before he was pressured into marrying her)
        Another example was Satyavati refusing to marry Shantanu until Bhishma renounces the thrown and takes the vow to never marry (Brahmacharya).

        Draupadi could have chosen not to marry Arjuna on account of him being Brahmin (he was in disguise), but she opted not to. Many of the other Kshatriyas present asked Draupadi to reject Arjuna for being Brahmin.

        When Richika (son of Brighu, father of Jamadagni, grandfather of Parashurama, one of the greatest saints of all time) asked to marry a Kshatriya princess Satyavati (daughter of Kshatriya king Gaadhi) he was initially rejected. He was asked for one thousand horses were to be fleet of foot and white in colour with black ears. This was because Satyavati and Gaadhi felt Richika–an extremely poor old saint–could not give them. In a miracle Richika gave what was asked of him. And Satyavati came with him.

        There are many other examples. Is there an interest in hearing them?

        Shafiq R, racism based on ancestry or Jati is as old as there have been humans. This is a challenge that our species has never mastered. We are as far away from mastering it now as we ever have.

        1+
  14. RE: Just a short preview regarding the comment by duo Sobchak/Kabir re: who invented Nazism
    (my apologies for broken English, did not have time to edit)

    Britain is, not Germany, the fatherland of Nazism, the idea of the power of the chosen the “Nordic race” that should govern the whole world. The creators of Nazism were the English: Tomas Carlyle (the father), Houston Chamberlin (writer and philosopher), James Hunt (to black people “assigned” the role of the transitional form between monkeys and man in 1862), Francis Galton (founder of eugenics – “science” about human selection to produce the ideal race) Karl Pearson (biologist and founder of biometrics – the racist direction of social-Darwinism), whose famous statement was: “The right to life does not mean the right of everyone to prolong their lineage.”

    Because of previous, Adolf Hitler therefore declared: “I am delighted with the English people. In colonization, they made it impossible”.
    Clearly, the Führer praised them: they carried out the elimination of lower races-black, yellow, red (American Indians, Indians, Zulu Blacks and other African tribes, Aboriginal) and several nations from Asia. That’s why Hitler took all the ideas and took over from the British.

    In Britain, it was created in 1932 The Association of Fascists, led by Baron Oswald Mosley. So it is an undisputed fact that must be recognised: that the British elite is the concept creator and executor, the greatest master of genocide and mass atrocities and the slaughter of all the others in the world.

    A recent poll conducted by the British “Yugov” says that as many as 43 percent of Britons believe that the Empire was “good”, while as much as 44 percent are proud of the British colonial past. Encouraged by this survey and survey in the “Independent”, the British listed, in their knowledge, the five biggest crimes of the British Empire. Those are:

    The Second Boer War (1899-1902). in South Africa between V. Britain and Transval and Oranje where 107,000 Boer prisoners were held by the British in conc-lagers, where more than 30,000 people died of beating, hunger and disease. Black victims were not counted in the dead.

    Massacre in Amritsar (1919). The massacre in Jalanwal Baghi (India) occurred in 1919, when British soldiers, on the orders of Colonel Reginald Dyer, fired at unarmed Indian demonstrators in the province of Punjab. In less than ten minutes, about 1,000 peaceful people were killed. Worst of all, the House of Lords and British public, as a result of this massacre by commander-in-chief Colonel Dyer, considered him as a hero.

    Famine in India (1943). About three million people died of starvation and illness in the Indian province of Bengal. In any case, hunger could have been prevented from transporting food from other parts of India, but Prime Minister Churchill prevented it from doing so. According to the Independent newspaper, between 12 and 29 million people have died from hunger under the Empire in India.

    Division of India (1947). When India gained independence in 1946 from the British Empire, great hatred between Hindu and Muslims erupted on the surface. UNHCR assumes that as many as 14 million people have gone to exodus and to refugees. Worse still, from one million to two million people lost their lives in the massacres and inter-religious massacres of 1947. The result was the wars and the break-up of the state of India. Pakistan was created. Because of the centuries-old governing and impoverishment of the once wealthy India-the British Empire played a key role in this tragedy. They have enabled this tragedy and created for her ideal conditions! (British Prime Minister Cameron in 2011 accepted Albion’s responsibility for this malice).

    The Mau Mau (1952 – 1960) Uprising of the Mau Mau tribe was a military conflict in the then British colony of Kenya. On the one hand, there were local rebels (including the British who lived in Kenya) and, on the other hand, the British army. British army killed between 20,000 and 100,000 people, and British soldiers were accused by thousands of Kenyans for crimes of torture and rapes.

    It can also be seen from this “modest” list that the British still do not know their greatest grievous malice that can only be shame of. They did not mention the largest genocides, millions of people killed in genocides in India, America and Canada over Indians, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in China, Africa, Australia … Some among these genocides, ethnic cleansing and massacres are the worst in the history of humanity. English tortured and killed, their wealth rests on the bones of hundreds of millions of innocent people.

    UK is the country which invaded about 90% of the world countries in its history?!? Of the 200 countries in the world, only 22 have never experienced British aggression, according to a study by the British themselves. Such Britain is promoting human rights and holding incredible lectures on democracy.

    (Some links in Serbian with some photos, there are many more)
    http://fakti.org/srpski-duh/britanci-za-185-godina-vladanja-indijom-pobili-i-umorili-gladju-85-miliona-ljudi
    http://fakti.org/srpski-duh/englezi-vekovima-bili-glavni-izvoznici-crnih-robova-iz-afrike-a-zbog-toga-se-nimalo-ne-kaju
    http://fakti.org/srpski-duh/britanci-za-istrebljenje-indijanaca-koristili-i-spanske-metode-i-holandske-placenike

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