112 thoughts on “Open Thread”

  1. I need to thank sbarrkum for his travel and food tips on SL. I found it to be an interesting and beautiful country, one that more Indians should try to visit if possible. Since I went to attend a wedding of my fiance’s close cousin, I got to observe and take part in some Jaffna Tamil ceremonies, which were fascinating for me from a Tam-brahm perspective. I was also able to travel to quite a few places in both Sinhalese and Tamil majority areas, both on and off the tourist trail. It’s definitely a country on the move, onwards and upwards, while still having a peaceful, laid-back air. Also, great value for money (especially if one can bargain in a local language!)


    1. Hi Siddarth
      Gald you enjoyed the visit to SL.

      Would be interested in views of post war Jaffna, discrimination etc.

      Also a comparison of Tamil Brahamin vs Jaffna Tamil customs, language.

      cheers sereno

      1. Not Siddharth, but I choose to reply.

        Travelled to Jaffna (really Nalloor), Kandy, and a beach, whose name I forget over 7 days in 2017.

        Temples in Srilanka are quite different from TN because religion in TN is somewhat sanskritized; almost entire Saivite; the visit to Jaffna area and east suggested a closer connection with Chidambaram and Kanyakumari/kerala temples, but I am not sure what the Eelam temples represent the stage of religious history vis-a-vis India. Before someone jumps in, my knowledge is weak.

        A bizarre thing, is I have to tune my ear to understand the language in the north; but I felt closer, lingually, in and around Kandy. I was a lost lingually with the Muslim Tamils in the beach area near Arugam Bay.

        I had a hard time in Sinhala Srilanka without knowing a word of the language; found that there was even less English conversation once I left the hotels.

        I end this note saying that Srilanka may be on the path of a coming storm; the financials are poor, and things are more expensive for people than even in South India. Things are pretty much hand-to-mouth as we go towards Jaffna, without foreign remittances. While inexpensive for an IT earner from India, it is not cheap, at least for people in the North and East whom I cold talk to. There is a lack of jobs, and rather easy imports. A reevaluation and course correction may be required, but this is true for India also.

        1. Contrary to my expectations, I found Jaffna to be a very genteel city outside of the small busy town area, with leafy streets and old-style Tamil houses like you rarely see in TN any more. And a hazy, laid back vibe that’s becoming all too hard to find in any indian town. It’s also a city of temples, overwhelmingly Hindu, and the people seemed very observant. Like Vijay mentions, the architecture of the temples is closer to the Kerala style, with sloping roofs and very colourful interiors. And throughout the Jaffna area and the surrounding villages, the temples are immaculately maintained and peaceful. This is in direct contrast to the poorly maintained, crowded temples of TN. On digging a bit, I figured out that the reason the temples are so well maintained is remittance money. There’s entire families who have left Jaffna to go to the UK/Canada/Aus but still maintain close ties to the land, and these folk pour in considerable amounts of money for the upkeep of the temples and for the tiruvizhas (temple fairs). I also found the roads to be in impeccable condition in Jaffna and throughout SL, all of which are Chinese built and recent.

          Jaffna Tamil wedding ceremonies seemed to me simultaneously more archaic and more modern. The former a consequence of the relative isolation of the Eelam, and the latter due to the international influences of a large diaspora component. As an example, saree clad ‘bridesmaids’ can be seen in SL tamil marriages, which i found hilarious. There are various elements which have may have been lost to Tam-brahms – the ponnu-urukku (gold melting) ceremony is an example. Jaffna Tamils also seem to have a strong village/community feeling, with the entire village coming together to cook for weddings, organise the events, etc. As a Tam-brahm from a family of over-achievers who barely remember the names of our ancestral villages in TN, I found this quite pleasing. But due to the sad events of the recent past, entire SL Tamil families have had to emigrate/flee (take your pick!) wholesale like I mentioned earlier, and I don’t see the second generation maintaining the same intensity of links to the land.

          SL in general feels like India from 20 years ago. Even in Colombo there’s barely any multi-storey residential buildings to be seen, and the malls seem quaint. There’s barely any English to be heard on the streets even amongst the youth, and private car ownership seems minimal. However there’s no begging that I saw, no slums and ‘well behaved’ is how I would describe the populace. The basics are clearly getting done very well, but the flip side is that most ambitious youth are forced to emigrate due to a lack of industries or good universities. But all that is changing now with the all-pervasive Chinese influence…

          (Apologies for the long comment!)

          1. Siddarth, Vijay

            First; wont be able to reply/read much till about Sept 5th. Oneof my SO’s (no slip there) is visiting from the US and have to run around getting home dialysis (peritoneal dialysis; which I will write about one of these days) supplies.

            Second: Eelam is a very sensitive word, specially in the south of Sri Lanka. Eleam implies separate state, very much like Khalistan. If I visited Punjab and referred to it as Khalistan would many Indians be happy. Context please.

            Things are pretty much hand-to-mouth as we go towards Jaffna, without foreign remittances.

            Foreign remittances are the bane of the North. Jaffna used to be most hard working people. Jaffna (not south of peninsula as in Kilinochi) used be the to achievers in Uni exams. Now they are far below.

            One can argue
            a) the top achievers left and the not so smart left (some Tamils say that)
            b) Remittances are causing less ambition necessity.

            There have been murder rapes of young girls (one 8) by people withing the community/relatives. One was done by a Jaffna Tamil, now Swiss National. Apparently the purpose was a to create a snuff movie. One of the current govt Minister (now ex; Vijayakala; also Jaffna Tamil) was apparently complicit trying to allow him flee the country.

            I end this note saying that Srilanka may be on the path of a coming storm; the financials are poor, and things are more expensive for people than even in South India.

            Maybe. I look at things differently. 80% of the country is rural. We have plenty of water. They putting in more irrigation/reservoirs, including sending water from the central highlands to Jaffna.

            Sri Lanka wont starve, maybe less commercial goods if the economy falters.

            I doubt Sri Lanka will be a Singapore. We dont have that wish to accumulate at the expense of working non stop. It will maybe be a mid to upper level mid income country I think.

            Anyway, most of Sri Lanka is patiently waiting for Govt change. When SL’s have stopped protesting and whining, it means they are patiently awaiting change. I predict a landslide.

            Others too have been predicting Sri Lanka’s economic demise.

          2. There’s barely any English to be heard on the streets even amongst the youth,
            Unhappily every other word is English, bus-eka, car-eka, table-eka, equal-eka. Just is unrecognizable because of the addition at end of world. Lik la in Malaysia

            and private car ownership seems minimal.
            If got to any level of car ownership as in the west we would have multi level highways. A car is a luxury.

            Cars and Tuk-tuks are taxed 300%

            A used Tata Indica is about USD 10,000 (LKR 1,650,000) (USD LKR=155)

            A brand new Bajaj three wheeler about USD 4,000 (LKR 6.000).

            In comparison Alibababa has tuk-tuks for about USD 1,500 (and less)

  2. This is an interesting article from Foreign Policy that I came across while following one of VijayVan’s links.

    “As India barrels into the 21st century, a progressive, fast-urbanizing, and young country is fighting for change against conservative, traditional forces struggling to maintain their control. There is a fierce backlash against modernity and Westernization, as well as a growing tension between the old and the new. Couples are choosing to make their own marital choices, but so-called honor killings have soared by an estimated 800 percent. Young Indians are building up the self-confidence to come out of the closet, but laws such as Section 377 make it unsafe for them to so. Sex education is urgently needed, but official government documents come out against it and recommend yoga and naturopathy. Premarital sex is becoming both more common and more commonly discussed in the media, but organized spaces for young people to talk about sex and gender are few and far between.
    India’s Supreme Court originally recriminalized homosexuality the same year that British courts legalized gay marriage. Section 377, established by India’s British colonial rulers in 1861, prohibits sexual activities “against the order of nature” and is punishable with a fine and/or imprisonment ranging from 10 years to life. Countries that continue to punish homosexuality based on similar colonial-era laws include Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia, Kenya, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.”

    1. Many laws in India -especially restrictive ones- are colonial in origin. Free India has not dared to revisit all laws and bin obsolete ones.

      1. Yes, I am aware that Section 377 was introduced by the British. We have the same law in Pakistan.

        The difference between the two countries is that you can actually talk about decriminalizing homosexuality in India. This is not possible in Pakistan because mainstream understandings of Shariah are very clear that homosexuality is a crime. This is one of the problems with religiously-based states that religious laws are imposed to control people’s private lives.

  3. Zack/Razib

    Posting two articles which might be relevant/ interesting for the readers

    Since its Pakistan election time, this article is sort of deja vu

    “Forget sentiment, India shouldn’t meddle in Pak’s internal squabbles”


    The best line
    “Singh (Indian high commissioner) says that he has never forgotten the reply he received. Sattar(Pakistani high commissioner) told him, “Never say that we are the same people. We are not. If we were, then why did we part company in 1947?””

    The second article, since Siddharth talked about SL food

    “Punjab on a platter”

    The best line, a bit exaggerated, but still
    “Most important of all is the food: what most of the world thinks of as Indian cuisine is a Punjabi invention”

    Just to add almost all N-Indian food actually came from just ONE restaurant(Moti Mahal) and 3 punjabi refugees

    1. Most Pakistanis really don’t like being told “We are the same people” because it seems to question the basis of Pakistan’s existence.

      My take on this is that factually we are the same people. What is the ethnic difference between an Indian Punjabi and a Pakistani one? But we have had 70 years of separate political histories and I don’t think most Pakistanis (or Indians) want to “reunite”. So let’s focus on being good neighbors (or at least not enemies) while respecting national sovereignty.

      1. @Kabir Punjabis form only 2% of India, most Pakistanis are indeed ethnically different from most Indians.

        1. I am a Central Asian, half-Uzbek half-Tatar. Pakistanis are my Central Asia bredrin. Together we are the Ummah.

        2. Zpata, Urdu and Punjabi Pakistanis, and many North Indian Muslims also see themselves as part of the same ethnic group. They speak the same language (Urdu) and practice the same religion.

          1. @Vikram Religion does not have any thing to do with this, obviously a Sikh Punjabi or Hindu Sindhi is much more closer to Pakistanis than North Indian Muslims (mostly from UP-Bihar). Urdu isn’t the native languge of any region in Pakistan anyway and it’s implementation is a legacy of the British colonial regime.

            Is a UP Brahmin ethnically the same as a Kerala Nair? How can Pakistanis be the ‘same’ (which is relative) as Indians when some Indians arent the same ethnically as other Indians?

            Genetics are the most objective way to analyse this, you can ask Razib Khan about that.

        3. 50% of Pakistanis are Punjabi. We are not ethnically different from Indians. Sindhi Muslims are not ethnically different from Sindhi Hindus. “Mujahirs” are UP-ites or from Hyderabad Deccan.

          1. Around 35% if you exclude Seraikis and Potoharis, but Punjabis form only 2% of India. Sindhi Hindus even less. Same goes for Muhajirs in Pakistan (mainly concentrated in Karachi).

            Percentages are key here. Using the minority, north-western most Indian groups for this argument, while ignoring the vast majority of India is like arguing that Pakistanis are ethnically the same as Tajikistanis just because of a few Wakhi Tajiks in the far north of Pakistan. Not a sound argument.

          2. For the purposes of this argument Seraiki and Potohari people are ethnically Punjabi. Whether they consider themselves as such as a debate for a different day.

            I can qualify my argument to say that the vast majority of Pakistanis are ethnically the same as North Indians. My own grandmother was from Agra. So she was a UPite. Both sides of my family are descended from Kashmiris.

            This fact should not be so weird considering that what is today Pakistan was an extension of North India for hundreds of years.

          3. @Kabir If by vast majority of Pakistanis, you mean Punjabis/Sindhis then I would disagree. North Indians proper (from the Gangetic Plains, UP-Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal etc.) are genetically quite distinct from most Punjabis and Sindhis.
            Muhajirs (literally means immigrants) from UP-Bihar in Pakistan are a minority as well and don’t represent most of Pakistan.

            As I said above, percentages are key here. Using the north-western most minority group in India (Punjabis/Sindhis) to represent and make an argument for ethnic sameness as Pakistan is the same as using some Chitrali/Kalash or Tajik groups in the far north of Pakistan to argue for sameness with Central Asia/Tajikistan while ignoring the vast majority of Pakistanis.

            Also, I would disagree about the region of Pakistan being a mere extension of North India (Gangetic plains). You can read any ancient Hindu text, the land of Gandhara, Siro-Sauvira, Bahika, Takka, Sind etc. is always mentioned as distinct from the Magadh/North Indian kingdoms. If anything it would be the other way around since Sanskrit and the Vedas spread from coterminous Pakistan (Sapta Sindhu) to North India.

          4. @Zack Zavide Yes, they indeed have. India’s most famous import, Bollywood is almost exclusively the domain of Punjabi Khatris from Western Punjab (both actors and producers) with a disproportionate number of Sindhi Hindu immigrants as well.

          5. It has to do with how much India is infatuated by white skin, and sindhis and punjabis can provide that in droves

          6. Just a little caveat light not white-

            Funny story my young assistant (WWC; white working class) quipped that I had turned almost black in the sun..

            Our racial terms undergo a deep metamorphosis in the West lolz

          7. The majority of Pakistanis are Punjabi. I believe the stat is actually more than 50%. They are ethnically exactly the same as Punjabis from India. The Partition was done on the basis of religion and not of ethnicity. We are the same people divided by faith.

          8. The Mughal Empire was based in Delhi and Agra and Lahore was just an extension of the heartland.

            Pakistan sees itself as the inheritor of Indo-Islamic civilization, chiefly the Mughal Empire.

          9. @Kabir I feel like I’m talking to a wall here. Punjabis could form 100% of Pakistan, that wouldn’t change a thing because they only form 2% of India. It’s like saying that there are Pashtuns in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan hence all Pakistanis and all Afghanistanis are the same.
            Do you know of a thing called percentages?

            Parition was indeed done on the basis of religion and Muslims were concentrated in the north-west which was to become Pakistan. This kind of corresponded with the genetic clines within South Asia as well.

            Also, I’m pretty sure the history of our region goes well beyond the Mughal era (a foreign power). Whatever Pakistan considers itself the inheritor of is irrelevant to what it actually is.

          10. Of course..

            I find ur inference of Mughals as foreign to be strange though; do u mean that in a positive sense?

            Ur Indus Nationalism is alien to the more sensible (no disrespect) Urdu patriotism is about; it ties us inalienably to the landscapes of our Mughal forbears..

          11. @Zack I meant that neither in a positive nor a negative sense, just stating an objective fact (they were of Uzbek origin after all).

            I don’t have any ‘Indus nationalism’ narrative. Maybe ‘Urdu patriotism’ (whatever that means) is more sensible but I’m not here to argue political narratives.

          12. We’ll have to agree to disagree. We are a Punjabi country and therefore we are ethnically Indian. Perhaps you are not Punjabi?

            “Do you know of a thing called percentages”–Don’t condescend to me. I don’t take kindly to it.

          13. @Zpata:

            I just need to correct you on one fact: you are treating the population of Punjab state in India as synonymous with Punjabis in India. The former is just over 2%, as you rightly observe, but there are a lot of Punjabis living throughout India, out of Punjab state. Probably a majority of Delhiites today are of Punjabi origin. Haryana state used to be part of Punjab. Himachal Pradesh (which also used to be part of British Punjab) probably has as many Punjabis as native Himachalis; the Punjabis have traditionally dominated commerce and politics there. And go to any part of the country; you’ll find Punjabis engaged in commerce. (Bombay has a lot of Punjabis too, and not just in the entertainment industry.)

            TLDR: The percentage of Punjabis in India is likely to be well north of 2%. That doesn’t make “Indian” synonymous with “Punjabi”, not by a long shot, but Punjabis are hardly a fringe ethnicity in the country.

          14. @Numinous Even if you add up all the north-western Indian states with direct overlap with Pakistan, the number still won’t exceed 10% of the country’s total population.
            UP, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra etc. that’s where most Indians are at.

            Punjabis are not a fringe ethnicity in India due to their vastly disproportionate influence and role in Indian politics, millitary, the entertainment industry etc.
            Btw do you have any population demographics/census number for the city of Delhi?

            @Kabir I agree, we’d probably have to agree to disagree because at this point you’re not even bothering to come up with a coherent argument.
            The funny thing is that there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan (percentage wise) than Punjabis in India but you’ll never see anyone saying that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the same.

    2. “Most important of all is the food: what most of the world thinks of as Indian cuisine is a Punjabi invention”

      Actually there are lot of BBC food travel TV programs now which visit different parts of India and bring the local cuisine . One such guy is Rick Stein

      I think even Rick Stein has missed many south Indianvegetarian dishes. Be that as may, he has introduced lot of south Indian meat cuisine to BBC viewes like Chettinad chicke, Railway Chicken. number of Kerala sea food dishes, etc.

      Funny thing , lot of Indian restaurants in Britain, many of them run by Bangladeshis, are having in their menus things like Chettinad chicken to give “authentic” and “exotic” Indian flavor. They have copied from Rick Stein and needless to say about their authenticity, which is out of kilter

      1. punjabi food has a meat option and isn’t spicy compared to food from the south or east. so of course it’s palatable to the rest of the world.

        1. Punjabi food is quite spicy. Their garam masala puts my arse on fire for a week. It does not have the chillies one gets in S/E, but spices galore.

          1. It isnt as if all Indian cuisines competed for international mind-share and Punjabi food won out. Historically, Punjabis have been more mobile and entrepreneurial enough to spread the food they know best. Gujratis are too, but being vegetarians (mostly) not as successful internationally in the restaurant business. It’s too bad Gujrati Muslim food (Palanpuri, I think) isn’t better known. Much more flavorful than Punjabi IMO.

          2. no it’s not. don’t front.

            anyway, aesthetically the stewish foods of the south and east are less palatable than something like tandoori chicken. not only are they spicier, but bengali food makes liberal use of mustard oil and the protein is often in the form of bone-in-fish.

        2. Spiciness is subjective and palate-dependent. To my taste, brought up with Kashmiri food, Punjabi cuisine (at least one that we get in Indian Punjab, though I have eaten in expat Pakistani Punjabi households too) is quite spicy and less pure meat-based and more curry-like. That isn’t to say it is not tasty.

          In fact, in Kashmiri the term panjöb pö’th (a la Punjabi) refers to cooking style with more spices.

  4. zpata, when it comes to political/social behaviour, genetic and even purely linguistic relationships dont mean much by themselves . All the ‘closeness’ that you allude to did not stop Sikhs and Muslims in Punjab from slaughtering each other on a pretty massive and complete scale. Nor for that matter Bengali Muslims from slaughtering Bengali Hindus repeatedly and vice versa. And so on for Gujarati Hindus to Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims to Hindus. Ethnic cleansing every time.

    And these are not exceptions. It has happened in almost every linguistic group in the subcontinent, so I dont think one can in any way say that ‘religion does not have any thing to do this’. At the ground level Hindus and Muslims can sense the difference between each other, regardless of genetic/linguistic similarity. And they can also sense that these differences are far larger than those between themselves and other language speakers.

    In the UP, such differences expressed themselves completely as Hindi and Urdu speaking communities. No sane analyst is going to call Hindus and Muslims in UP as the ‘same ethnic group’. Put Punjabis together in a state and you will see the same kind of conflicts over script/vocabulary that were seen in UP.

    1. @Vikram This sort of polarization based on religion/scripts is something recent (i.e within the last 70 years/Partition time) and again, a legacy of the British colonial regime. If this line of thinking is to be followed (affinity based on religion) then a Bangladeshi Muslim should consider himself closer to a Saudi or a Turk than to neighbouring Bengali Hindus.

      My original point was based on ethnicity and the most objective way to decide that is via genetics. Again, ask Razib Khan, he has the data of the HGDP Pakistanis and of many different Indian/Bangladeshi groups. The genetic differences within these groups can be quite large, much greater than the ones in Europe. You won’t say that a Pole is the same a Spaniard ethnically, then why would you extend the same sentiment towards Pakistanis and Indians. There is a West Eurasian cline in south Asia, from the north-west to the east/south. Bringing in partition violence to this debate is tangential and irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      1. I like you. Please stay around.

        Unlike what Vikram says, UP Muslims and Hindus cannot be called two different ethnic groups. Both groups are UPites who happen to practice two different religions. There was a time when everyone in UP was part of the “Ganga-Jumani tehzeeb” regardless of whether they were Hindu or Muslim. Partition destroyed this culture.

          1. I think you mean this as a trick question, but I have always heard the composite culture referred to as “Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb”.

            This is the culture so eloquently described by Qurratulain Hyder in “Mere Bhi Sanamkhana hai” and “Aag Ka Dariya”.

          2. Ahem.. According to eminent ‘historian’ irfan habib gyanvapi masjid in kashi and kesaodeo temple in mathura is an example of ganga jamuni tehjeeb. I m sure kabir would agree. But i am fully sceptical of this tehjeeb because irfan habib was visibly outraged when a humayu era tomb in safdurjung was painted saffron and made into a shiv temple. Everyone demanded police action and the tomb to be restored to its original form. Don’t know what is everybody’s problem. We were all for this ganga jamuni tehjeeb and following it.Ofcourse yindoo barbarians destroyed one of the best ganga jamuni tehjeeb symbol babri masjid already

      2. Zpata, you seem to believe that ethnicity is some kind of deterministic outcome of genetics. This would be true if we were talking about primitive tribes, but we are not.

        The polarization along religion/scripts/civilization is the product of modernization, not necessarily colonization. It is just that the process of modernization in South Asia while it was under British colonial rule.

        I am also not sure how you are concluding that Bangladeshi Muslims dont consider themselves closer to Saudis and Turks than to Bengali Hindus. Islam is the state religion in Bangladesh. Marriages between diasporic Bengali speaking Muslims and diasporic Turks, Egyptians and Pakistanis are not uncommon. Try suggesting to a few Bengali speaking Muslims if they are ok with their daughters marrying a Bengali Hindu and tell me whether you still think of these groups as the same ethnicity.

        1. Genetics is the most objective way to determine ‘relatedness’ between different groups, not religion or even culture (to some degree), which is what my original point was. The latter two are fluid and easily changed.

          The polarization and divide based on religion/script in south Asia is a thing of late 19th and early 20th century Congress-Muslim League politics of the British Raj, emanating from UP-Bihar. One would expect modernization to lessen such divides not alleviate or rather be the cause for them.

          Diaspora populations and their marriage patterns are not representative of the overwhelming mass of people of any country, they develop seperate sub-cultures.
          People can consider themselves closer to who ever they want, if Bangladeshi Muslims start considering themselves closer to Inuits than to Bengali Hindus it still wouldn’t change the fact that they are not. According to your views Bosnians are closer to Nigerian Muslims than to Serbs, which is a very absurd proposition.

          1. Genetics is the most objective way to determine ‘relatedness’ between different groups

            The “most objective” cracked me up 😀

            Apparently information encoded in one substrate (genes) is “more objective” than encoded in another (basal ganglia). Who knew…

          2. Zpata, why is this genetic ‘closeness’ of any importance if it quite clearly does not influence political and social behavior anywhere near the level to which religion/culture do ?

            Also, I am sorry, but your point about diaspora South Asians not reflecting the marriage preferences of their ‘mass’ populations is completely and utterly wrong. If anything, those in the diaspora are a bit more relaxed when it comes to marriage.

            Just think about the fact that in Pakistan and Bangladesh, a Hindu man marrying a Muslim woman is a crime, which will certainly land you in jail, if not lynched by a mob beforehand. India is not a whole lot better when it comes to a Muslim man marrying a Hindu woman. Nobody cares about genetic ‘relatedness’ etc.

          3. @Vikram It is important because I’m not talking about political or social behavior but about ‘ethnic similarity’ and with genetics you have solid data/numbers you can argue with.

            The fact that the diaspora are more relaxed when it comes to marriage is exactly why they aren’t representative of the majority of people still living in their native countries who are very conservative when it comes to marriage. Most Pakistanis dont even prefer marrying outside of their tribe let alone marrying someone of a different ethnicity or race altogether.

            You seem to be making some pan-Islamic ummah argument, where somehow all Muslims are of one ethnicity. I feel like we are going around in circles now. My original point was about ethnic similarity based on genetics, not on the ‘perception’ of ethnic similarity determined by political/social behaviour. There is a difference between the two.

          4. why is this genetic ‘closeness’ of any importance if it quite clearly does not influence political and social behavior anywhere near the level to which religion/culture do ?

            LOL @Vikram

            According to Zpata’s fantastic logic, if a human stranger kicks my dog I should say nothing to the stranger, because the human is genetically far closer to me than the dog and apparently genetics is the “most objective” way to determine relatedness. 😀 😀

          5. It is important because I’m not talking about political or social behavior but about ‘ethnic similarity’

            A nice test of a good scientific theory is that it is useful, i.e. it can be brought to bear to solve a problem.

            What you seem to be doing is simply re-labelling “ethnic similarity” as genetic kinship. But what does that add to our understanding? What other content, implication, ramification does “ethnic similarity” have above and beyond what can be explained by genetic kinship? If there’s no such correlate effect then your re-labelling is an entirely pointless exercise.

            What Vikram is referring to is that clinical test or usage case of ethnic similarity in terms of informing social or political grouping of people. Genetic distance is a very poor explainer of that in most cases (though not all).

          6. @Slapstik Would you agree with Vikram’s assertion that since (according to him) Bangladeshi Muslims consider themselves closer to Saudis and Turks and since self-identification is apparently key in defining ethnicity, they are indeed closer to them than to neighbouring Bengali Hindus? (contrary to what genetics say since genetics are supposed to be irrelevant in deciding ethnicity).

          7. Vikram’s point is sensible:
            Ask any Bengali (Muslim family) if they would rather their kid marry a Saudi or a Bengali Hindu. 90-95% would prefer a Saudi.
            Ask any Bengali Hindu family if their kid marry a Tamil or Kashmir Hindu or Bangladeshi Muslim and again 90-95% would reply with Hindu (or Sikh).

            The Sikhs are trying to redefine themselves as an ethnic group in England..

            Ethnicity to some extent is constructed and the dividing faultline is Muslim vs. Non-Muslim (much like in the US it’s black and beige)..

        2. The fact that Muslims prefer to marry within the same faith does not make your point about ethnic groups. Bengalis in West Bengal and Bangladeshis are still one ethnic group, though divided by faith. Same applies to Punjabis in India and Punjabis in Pakistan.

          Most Hindus also prefer to marry within the same faith and in many cases even the same caste. So this fact really doesn’t help you make the point you think you are making.

          1. Marital preferences are an absolutely key part of any ethnicity. Thats how ethnic groups reproduce themselves.

          2. You need to go back and take a course on ethnicity and nationalism. Religion and ethnicity are not the same thing.

            Punjabi Hindus and Punjabi Muslims are not two different ethnic groups. You seem to have a way of thinking which is very short term and assumes 1947 as a starting point.

    2. >All the ‘closeness’ that you allude to did not stop Sikhs and Muslims in Punjab from slaughtering each other on a pretty massive and complete scale. Nor for that matter Bengali Muslims from slaughtering Bengali Hindus repeatedly and vice versa. And so on for Gujarati Hindus to Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims to Hindus. Ethnic cleansing every time.

      Is this because of religion or because of differences associated with class and social status? Communities in India are often tied to a specific profession like Hindu moneylenders or Muslim butchers so of course it would be able for a Gujarati or Bengnali who to slaughter and who to leave alone.

  5. Am surprised that Kabir believes in genetic determinism when it comes to ethnicity. But if that is so why does he speak Urdu, a Central Indo-Aryan language, rather than Kashmiri and Persian, where the bulk of his ancestry comes from ?

    Genuinely curious, dont mean to offend.

    1. That’s a bit of a facetious question; no Urdu-speaker conceives of Urdu as Indo-Aryan but rather Eastern Persianate..

      It’s consistent with the “genetic conceptions.”

      This may not be correct but I’m just giving you an insight into perceptions.

      Note I’m not talking about objective reality here (Urdu is from a Prakrit/Khari Boli etc) but perceptions..

      1. Zack I do agree with your perceptions, although such ideas have receded from the Muslim middle/upper classes in UP today. They are more likely to identify with a ‘North Indian’ ethnicity and I dont think the tendency to claim/emphasize foreign ancestry is as strong as before.

        Interestingly, they dont seem to be as obsessed with the Mughals as Pakistanis seem to be.

        1. In my experience Indian Muslims have a dual persona; what they say to Hindus (who are majority) and what they will say to their own..

          I’ve experienced this heavily in India; much as the Hindu majority complain about “Muslim rights” etc but there is a certain compliance in the Muslim minority as I imagine there is in Israel.

          The precipitous decline of Urdu in her heartland is a good indicator of it.. Unless ur Saif or one of the Khans; it’s not easy being a Muslim in India.

          This is my opinion, of course being a Muslim in India is orders of magnitude better than being a non-Muslim in Pakistan but the barometer of India should be the US.

          1. They are simply far more Islamicate/Pakophile..
            this isn’t to say that they aren’t proud to be Indian but of course it’s rather difficult for them to hate Pakistan like it is for Hindus..
            There is a very strong connection; in India when I’m with Hindus I will almost never disclose a Pakistani connection but with Indian Muslims it’s the first thing I’ll let on. Simply the reaction are orders of magnitudes apart..

            This is anecdotal I could be very wrong..

          2. Interesting, so is it ‘labon per Samvidhan, dil main Pakistan’ (Constitution on lips, Pakistan in the heart) ? Or am I overestimating the Pakophilia ?

            Also, how does the Islamicate/Pakophilia manifest itself ? Desire for purer Urdu ? Liking of Pakistani food/music/dress ? Tired of vegetarianism and cows everywhere ?

            Do hope India can be a place where they can express themselves more freely, but that day is a bit far.

    2. What a ridiculous question. I cannot believe you are serious. I think I have now written a million times that my Daadi was from Agra. We have always been ahl-e-zaban. Urdu is the high culture of Pakistan. My mother’s family is Kashmiri-Punjabi, but my maternal grandparents spoke Urdu to their children because Quaid-e-Azam had declared it our national language.

      My primary language is English as I grew up in the United States.

      1. Kabir

        Your mother is Kashmiri-punjabi. Would that be a different ethnicity than Kashmirs? Or are they same as Punjabis who lived in Kashmir or visa- versa. Is it similar to lets say how Seraikis are , i feel they are Punjabis who speak a different language or would you put them as different ethnicity all together?

        1. Muslim Punjabi identity (post 1947) has a very very weird construct to it.

          There is the idea that Punjab was a passing ground for many different tribes/warriors so there is no one ethnic identifier..

          It’s super-different to Sindhi Muslim identity, which has a very cohesive resistance based identity (even though Sindhi Muslims have Rajput, Baloch infusions to them so it’s difficult to pin who they are really).

          The central canard is that Pakistan rests on the Punjabis giving up some but not too much of their identity ..

        2. Kashmiri-Punjabis are people whose ancestors are from the Kashmir Valley but who settled in Punjab during Dogra rule. There are a lot of us in Sialkot and Lahore. We primarily now speak Urdu and Punjabi. My maternal grandfather’s family actually came to Sialkot during Partition, though he was already living there and practicing as a lawyer.


          1. As for Seraiki, many people believe that Seraiki is a dialect of Punjabi. The prestige dialect of Punjabi is that spoken in Lahore.

            Seraiki nationalists would of course beg to differ and they want their own province. But since that would entail Lahore ceding power, it is never going to happen.

  6. “it’s rather difficult for them to hate Pakistan like it is for Hindus”

    I dont think that the vast majority of Hindus in India ‘hate’ Pakistan. Beyond the Kashmir conflict, we have no bones to pick there. The place has kind of receded from Hindu memory (Alice Albinia says this actually happened as early as 1st millennium BCE). There are interesting Hindu pilgrimage spots like Hinglaj and Sadh Bela, but these dont have anywhere near the kind of importance for Indian Hindus (excepting Sindhis) that places like Taj Mahal have for Pakistani Muslims.

    This is why the Amarnath Yatra is so important for the Indian government. It keeps Kashmir in the ‘Hindu mind’ so to speak.

    1. @Vikram “(Alice Albinia says this actually happened as early as the 1st millenium BCE)”

      In the Mahabharata, Brahmins are advised not to travel to Gandhara, Bahlika/Takka, Siro-Sauvira (coterminous Pakistan) as they are ‘mleccha’ (foreign) lands where dharma/varna are not practiced. They are also said to be outside the confines of ‘Aryavarta’ (the Gangetic plains).

      1. What is “Siro-Sauvira”? 😉
        What is the reference in Mahabharata (chapter, verse) where Gandharas are termed mlecchas?
        Do you even know any Sanskrit?

        1. @Slapstik @Janamajeya Siro-Sauvira is the region of southwest Punjab and north Sind.

          “Where forests of Pilus stand, and those five rivers flow, viz., the Satadru, the Vipasa, the Iravati, the Candrabhaga, and the Vitasa and which have the Sindhu for their sixth, there in those regions removed from the Himavat, are the countries called by the name of the Arattas. Those regions are without virtue and religion. No one should go thither. (VIII.30.36)”

          “There where the five rivers flow just after issuing from the mountains, there among the Aratta-Vahikas, no respectable person should dwell even for two days. (VIII.30.43)”

          “The Prasthalas, the Madras, the Gandharas, the Arattas, those called Khasas, the Vasatis, the Sindhus and the Sauviras are almost as blamable in their practices. (VIII.30.74)”

          “…they did so in Gandhara, an area already peripheral by Brahmanical standards.”

          1. @Zpata

            This is an entirely context-free cherry picking of the Mahabharata, an epic you clearly do not understand.

            The Kuru-Panchalas were related in marriage to the Kambojas (Sudakshina being their cousin), Gandharas (Gandhara being their mother’s side of the Kaurava family) and Madrakas (being the mother’s side of the Pandava family). The whole damn story is predicated on Gandhara-naresha Shakuni, the maternal uncle of the Kauravas, hatching a plan to put his sister’s children on the Delhi (Hastinapura) throne. Mahabharata is virtually peppered with references to Gandhara – so much for the place being beyond the pale.

            Secondly, the verses you have quoted have been cherry-picked. They occur in the section where the king of Madra (modern day parts of Himachal, Jammu and Pothohar), Shalya, who was the uncle of Pandavas insults Karna, the warrior of the Kaurava camp. To which Karna replies by insulting the Madras and people of his region:

            “Unto the ruler of Madras, of harsh features, who was saying such disagreeable things unto Karna, the latter once more said words that were twice bitter”

            … and then follow the insults by Karna that you have quoted. The very fact that all of this is meant to insult Shalya shows that the kSatriya gaNaH of the region took the vrata (correct behaviour) seriously and saying such things was demeaning to him.

          2. that somehow we were beyond the pale of Hind

            Yes, I have heard that before. I actually think this sort of generic national myth can be constructive (even though it is false, but then which national myth isn’t).

            The reason is that it predicates some social contract in common history as opposed to narrow religious confines and creates a broader church inclusive to minorities. Obv any nativism taken too far can become Fascism. So there is always that risk.

          3. @Slapstik It is not only Madra that is ‘insulted’ (a whole host of other regions in coterminous Pakistan are) nor is this the only text that does.

            @Zack I don’t think that anyone would deny that in the post Rig-Vedic period, the centre of Indic civilization was the Gangetic plains (especially Magadh) and that the region of Gandhara and Sind were considered peripheral (not necessarily ‘beyond the pale’) by traditional Brahmanic views.

          4. Well the Achmaenians and Alexander figured heavily..
            To be honest it’s all so complicated and messy; we are of India but also of the Indus

          5. It is not only Madra that is ‘insulted’ (a whole host of other regions in coterminous Pakistan are)

            If you want to confirm your bias that is entirely your prerogative, but the Mahabharata calls Andhrakas, Keralas, Khasas etc as mlecchas too – regions squarely within India (incl most of Madra). Try asking a Dogra whether he considers himself an ethnic kin of Pakistanis…

            Secondly, Magadha was a peripheral region during the Mahabharata. The orthodox (Hindu) notions of what constitutes India’s cultural core – the region known as the Brahmavarta in the Manusmriti – is modern-day Northern Haryana (centred around Kurukshetra). The region roughly bounded by Patiala, Haridwar and Delhi. This was still referred to as Aryadesha in the Rajatarangini (12c CE).

            You are welcome to read ethnic distinctiveness into your country. Be my guest. But don’t try teaching me Epics that I’ve studied in the original Sanskrit and which you barely comprehend.

          6. The “Mahabharata” and other fictional stories are hardly evidence that can be used to argue modern notions of ethnicity or nationalism. Quite strange that people are wasting so much time on this.

            There is no difference between Pakistanis east of the Indus (Punjabis, Sindhis) and North Indians. The only thing is that we are Muslim and that is why we created a separate country in 1947.

            Pathans have more in common with their Afghan brothers than they do with Indians. The Baloch are their own thing. But about 60% of us Pakistanis are Punjabi and we are clearly ethnically the same as Indian Punjabis.

      2. “In the Mahabharata, Brahmins are advised not to travel to Gandhara …”
        Could you reference this assertion please.

        I don’t think it comes from the standard Sanskrit Mahabharata. After all one of the main characters in Mahabharata ‘Gandhari’ is from Gandhara and atleast till the Gupta dynasty times Gandhara was very much within the Indian cultural ambit. The core of Mahabharata actually is pre-Mauryan making it about a millenium older than the Gupta period.

        This quote could however be from some ‘Purana’ compiled much later.

    2. Simply that they’ll admit to liking Pakistani dramas LOL

      It’s just a different in intensity Indian Hindus will tend to *hate* the state of Pakistan; Indian Muslims not so much..

      1. Naah, muslim ghettoes celebrate Pakistan’s win over india quite fearlessly. They actually r very proud of pakistan.Some days ago, 10 muslim younsters were arrested for singing and dancing’hum Pakistani Mujahideen hai’. If u blame pakistan for terrorism, they seeth inwardly. It isnt true for educated urban muslims(with whom i have interacted in delhi) but true for most muslims. It is as if india is joint account for them and pak and bangladesh r private accounts.They always argue that india is going to kill all of them and Pakistan respects all minorities. They also boasts among themselves how tgey ruled over hibdus for 1000 years.

      2. Common Zack, it looks like you are holding back. Tell us what you were going to tell us.

    3. The “hatred” (we can say dislike or antipathy) towards Pakistan goes beyond the Kashmir conflict. The countries have fought 4 wars after all.

      The BJP is always telling Indian Muslims to “go to Pakistan”.

      1. Why do you think there is hatred for Pakistan beyond its claim on Kashmir ? I can see no reason for this.

        If you are trying to suggest this is because of Pakistan being a Muslim country, it would make little sense. Bangladesh is a Muslim country and we have good relations with them, not to mention an extremely liberal visa regime with a whole bunch of Muslim countries in the Middle East (UAE, Oman, Jordan, Iran) and Indonesia, Malaysia in SE Asia.

        1. The hatred for Pakistan is not because it is a Muslim country. It is because Pakistan was created out of India (at least that is what Indians think. It was actually created out of BRITISH India. There was no “India” until August 15, 1947). Also, like I said, India has fought four wars with Pakistan. 1971 did not have anything to do with Kashmir. It had to do with Mrs. G wanting to break Pakistan. That is why India supported the secession (or liberation) of East Pakistan. I will never believe that Mrs. G acted purely out of concern for Bengalis.

          You have good relations with Bangladesh because Hasina does what India wants her to do. If Khalida Zia comes to power, your relations will not be as good. In any case, Bangladesh cannot stand up to you militarily the way Pakistan can and is happy to let India be the regional hegemon. Pakistan is never going to stand for that.

          Finally, as you noted, Bangladesh is not claiming territory that India thinks is its own. Pakistan has a principled position on Kashmir going back to 1947.

          1. “Bangladesh was also created out of India”.

            East Pakistan was created out of BRITISH India. And East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan and named itself Bangladesh.

            In any case, India helped Bangladesh to come into being. It is no surprise your relations with that country are better than your relations with Pakistan.

    1. Why don’t you settle the debate for us since you are the expert on genetics?

      I am simply saying that religion or intermarriage (or lack thereof) doesn’t make people into a different ethnic group. Vikram clearly disagrees.

      1. because genetics doesn’t prove things at this granularity.

        i probably agree more with you than vikram from what i can tell. never gotten a sense from nay bengali, even goat-beard types, that they would admit that saudis, not hindus from the west, are the same ethnic group. (goat-beards will assert we should *act like they are*, but they say this in bengali, QED).

        1. @Razib “because genetics doesn’t prove things on this granularity”

          No, but on a PCA the HGDP Pakistanis would form a seperate cluster from the (non-NW) Indians, right?

    2. Essentially this happens within 30 comments in an Indian board. This is well known from the time of Bitnet and ARPAnet in the 80s, and you, Razib Khan should have known this from your time in SM.

  7. Do states close to West Bengal (UP, Bihar) have a similar caste system to WB and South India, or is it the more “conventional” four-tier system found in the NW?

    1. At the extent of alienating Razib by expounding on the ethnic, let me try to explain:

      As Tolstoy said, Every state of India is different and sad in their own unique way. First off, there is no 4 caste, but really, a four tier system in India, with Brahmins (and may be certain Banias), Forward Classes, OBC (other backward classes), and SC/ST. Forward classes in India are some combination of banias and what passes for Kshatriyas (there are really no martial castes in India, but every caste formation claims to be one). OBC is a giant soup and what is in OBC can be sudras or not depending on time and place. Every caste wants to be in OBC for quotas, and outside OBC in economic and political control. The lowest place in the totem pole is SC/ST who are even outside the caste system, but form a clear 20-25% of the populations.

      Uttar Pradesh:
      Together with Bihar, this is the ground zero of the Hindu caste conflagaration, these states have a huge Brahmin/Kshatriya (a laughable name as they have not fought anyone in 4000 years) approximately 15% of the population. The Jats/Rajputs/Thakurs are the FCs who want to be BC in name but rulers by power and form another 15-20%. The OBCs who include Yadavs, Kurmis, Koeris, and a whole host of others form 30-40% of the population. Muslims form may be 20% but remener 85% of this population is essentially BC-converts, and indistinguishable. This is the 20% that the Hindu party fights bravely today. The last and the least is the SC which is outside the economical and social system. However, be aware that there is no rich-poor here, only, the poor, very poor, and poor as in in sub-Saharan Africa.

      The situation transitions slowly as you go south. In Maharashtra, Marathha/Kumbi contribute to 33-40% of the population, but the social status is high, but seeking OBC status or quotas. The brahmin population is small. The others are a mishmash of BC, SC, ST, and Muslims. The 4 tier system is slowly breaking here.

      By the time you reach Tamilnadu or Andhra, the 4 tier system is completely broken. Brahmins are no more than 1-2% of the population and hold no land or much power. The OBCs are a collection of all people and can be 50-70% of the population. The so called warrior or farmer caste holds power but seek OBC status and power. The SC/ST population is small and scattered (No more than 15-20%). There are a considerable number of Christians and Muslims, but they identify more with the language and state, and a BJP like “othering” by religion does not work, as in Bengal.

      A diffusion model of the 4 tier system is best modeled using a Fickian diffusion equation, appled somewhere in the Northwest.

      This should not be meant to suggest that the people do not have the 4 tier system in mind; each and every caste is ruthless to those below and jealous of those above.

    2. @Indo-Carib,
      Caste systems is same all over the present day India. In UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajastan some communities claim to be kshatriyas are present. With some exceptions rest of India has the three Varnas and the Dalits formerly known as Harijans.

      The Varnas in the rest of India we are talking about consist of Brahmins, Vaishyas and Sudras. One thing of note is Sudras are divided into quite a number of distinct castes and make up about 50% of Hindus. Kshatriyas if present in these places are miniscule and not influential.

      You were referring to castes with reference to Bengal. At one time Bengalis were influential and dominated the areas around Bengal, like Assam, Orissa, Bihar and eastern U.P. up to Banaras. It is not difficult to find a Bengali in these geographical areas.

      This is only an anecdotal narrative. Others are welcome to add to this. I am glad to respond to an Indian friend from the Caribbean. 🙂

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