General Bajwa recently visited Lahore and talked to an audience of students and teachers for several hours (news report here )A friend who attended this talk sent me this report:
A four hour talk with General Qamar Javed Bajwa
Today I had a class at 2:30 pm which I had to miss, but the reason was worth it.
Some faculty and students from LUMS, LSE, LGU, GC and FC were invited to the Corps HQ in Lahore and the talk was supposedly by the Corps Commander. However, when the talk started at 10 am, we were surprised to see General Bajwa enter and then sit at a large desk on the raised stage, all alone. As per etiquette, I am not reproducing the stunning talk but only my general impressions.
General Bajwa was supposed to talk for 30 minutes followed by Q and A for 30 minutes: Anybody could ask anything. The corps commander, the GOCs, ISPR were there but mostly it was students and faculty.
The talk started at 10 am and finished at 2 pm! And I can say I have never listened to a more candid talk on Pakistan’s history, politics, and even personal issues by the senior most army officer. Not even heard of such a talk.
General Bajwa is, no doubt, a gifted speaker. To sustain interest for so long and to answer all kinds of questions (some of the questions were as candid and upfront as you can imagine, infact beyond imagination) is amazing. Secondly, he has an unrivaled sense of humor: He cracked top of the line jokes all the time, interspersed his talk with verses, and responded with wit but also with logic. Thirdly, he knows things. Has learnt a lot and shared his candid lessons which again surprised the audience. He went through our history since 1947, interpreted it in his own way which I found very insightful, balanced and honest. Democracy was the only solution, religion should not be forced on people, education was the need of the hour, discrimination is bad, all institutions can make mistakes and the important thing now is to move forward.
I was sitting right at the front, behind the generals, and I must say I appreciated General Bajwa’s thoughts a lot and one of the most amazing, even breath-taking analyses of Pakistan’s situation ever. Four hours passed us by and at the end he had to stop because of the Juma prayers – he shook hands with us faculty: I introduced myself. Then there was some tea (hot gulab jamans, sandwiches). I got to my car (my faithful 1995 Margalla parked right next to the GOC’s sparkling SUV) and phoned cancellation of the class (my phone was in the car as phones were not allowed)
The History Podcast reaches the Vedic age. Our speakers talk about its origins, its literature, its culture, and the legacy of the Vedic Age. Varna system makes an appearance as does Pythagoras Theorem. Amongother things, our speakers talk of Vedic recitation techniques and different layers of Vedic literature. Maneesh Taneja in conversation with Shrikanth Krishnamachry and Gaurav Lele. @maneesht @shrikanth_krish @gaurav_lele
You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
This episode was a spin-off of the history of India series we are creating. As we touched on the OIT/AIT debate in the IVC episode we thought maybe we should bring both sides of the debate on a common good faith platform and have a debate. In this episode, we have Kushal Mehra of the Carvaka, Kartik Mohan, Razib Khan, Mukunda, and me discussing the Aryan question. It was a good discussion though I doubt if it will be a great podcast to listen – but it is what it is.
Earlier this month I was part of a podcast discussion about AIT and its counter (OIT?) with Razib, Mukunda, Kushal Mehra, and a Carvaka regular Kartik Mohan. It was a good discussion though I doubt if it would come out as a great podcast.
Personally, I have gone down the AIT/OIT rabbit hole enough last few years to want a long break from these discussions. However, before I take the break, I would like to summarize my current position which would also act as my notes for the podcast. For my position on this topic a year ago please find the following blogpost – From OIT to AIT
I firmly believe that ancient genetics is the strongest method for unraveling the mysteries of prehistory. For pre-modern societies, I do not believe there were any mechanisms of the spread of primary languages without mass movements of people. Language is a meme but unlike religions, it has complex mechanisms of spread that take years and requires (in most cases) familial teaching. If we take examples of memetic spread in recorded history – be it the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia or Buddhism in East Asia(via trade, etc) both happened without fundamental alterations in the primary language of the recipient regions. So in essence I do not find the model of primary language shift through mechanisms of trade or other N mechanisms posited as feasible.
As Razib pointed out in the podcast – everywhere on the earth where Indo-European languages were spoken as primary languages in pre-modern times, the Steppe genetic signal is present in substantial amounts. I do not think any other explanation other than some form of Steppe hypothesis can explain this data. Of course, PIE homeland (including Hittite) could be in the Steppe or it could be elsewhere. I believe what we can firmly state is not where PIE originated, but where PIE developed and was spread out of.
If we want to look at a potential model of IA spread into India from the historic record we can take a look at the British isles. The languages are nicely split in the east-west direction along Germanic/Celtic lines similar to the North-South split of Aryan and Dravidian languages in India. Not only that only around 38% ancestry of Britain is Anglo Saxon with an east-west gradient.
Critics of OIT like to attack particulars of the 2007 Anthony book as new evidence is unearthed as if any dissonance in Anthony/Mallory model is a slamdunk against the Steppe hypothesis. Personally, I have no strong positions on the details of the Steppe hypothesis as argued by Anthony and Mallory. The evidence of horseback riding for the Sredny Stog or even the Yamnaya is circumstantial at best (I believe some form of horseback riding as a tool of herding by young shepherds might have been a possibility), so we cannot firmly assume that horseback riding was the reason for the massive demographic changes brought about by the Steppe men. This might have mattered before the ancient DNA revolution, but now we know the genes of the steppe pastoralists spread, maybe because of the horseback riding or maybe just due to the benefits of horse husbandry or some other reasons. We know massive demographic and (probably) linguistic changes occurred from the Steppes, the “how” question might eventually get solved (or it might not) – but that doesn’t poke holes in the larger “Steppe hypothesis” built on top of Archaeogenetics.
This doesn’t mean that any other mechanism of IE spread cannot work with the available data but it has to go beyond the tenuous mechanisms like trade-aided language spread. Even the Elite migration hypothesis (minus demographic changes) doesn’t seem to work as well as we assumed before the ancient DNA. The Hittite and Mitanni IE elites did not cause any substantial demographic changes nor did they cause any long-term linguistic alterations in the middle eastern region. Closer to home, Indians have had elite rules who spoke Greek, Iranian languages, Turkic languages, and lastly English. These massive elite dominations for centuries have only resulted in superstrates and languages like Urdu (I am not sure if we call it a creole). By the end of an efficient British Raj, not even 1% of Indians spoke English as a primary language. Thus anyone who tries to explain away IA spread out of India has to account for the 20-30% paternal ancestry (50% Y chromosomes) which seems to have changed in the other direction. This paternal ancestry matters a lot as we know the ancient Aryas were patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrifocal.
Also, it is often overlooked that AIT is just one node of the larger PIE – Steppe hypothesis. Even if details of AIT are contested how much does that matter to the PIE question? Also even if PIE shifts out of Pontic Steppe into Iran or Anatolia it would still be against any model for OIT and in favor of some form of AIT.
As I tried pointing out in the podcast, I see a lot of issues with Talageri and other OIT (anti-AIT scenarios) – I have not read Talageri’s books yet but have read his blog posts and interpretation of RV and listened to his podcasts on Carvaka. My points against those interpretations are
The east to west movement of the Bharatas based on the mandalas 6-3-7 seems to hold on to some very tenuous points from the RV (eg: 2-3 references to Ganga). This reasoning might appear possible (not probable) but has zero archeological records to support it – especially for the timelines Talageri argues for (3000 BCE). Before 2000 BCE we have no archaeological data from the Gangetic plains to buttress these extraordinary claims.
The lack of references to rice in RV is also inconsistent with the Gangetic origins of Aryas.
The whole Asva/Ratha argument in Talageri model old RV as other equids/carts doesn’t seem to work in my preliminary reading of the RV. While the point made by Talageri “that all references to Asva/Ratha need not mean Horse/Chariot” is a correct one; the opposite isn’t automatically true => All references to Asva/Ratha need not be non Horse/non Chariot references. On the contrary, reading the RV I felt reading those references as horse/chariots make more sense (maybe it’s my priors). Interested readers can read through RV 3.43 3.45 6.29 6.44 6.45 7.18 7.19 and see for themselves if the references to Asva/Ratha appear to be for Horse/chariots or for Cart/Donkeys. (especially the Dasrajna hymns).
Whatever inferences I take from RV, I find it difficult to impose them on whatever we know of the IVC. This doesn’t automatically rule out the possibility of Arya poets living on the peripheries of IVC and composing RV but makes it unlikely IMO.
However to conclusively deny these assertions one would have to do a meta-analysis of RV, if ever I get down this rabbit hole in the future I might do it myself. However in the meantime, one can look at this.
Needless to say, such interpretations will remain “circumstantial” be they in support of the AIT or OIT. After all, RV only captures a thread of the ancient Indian past while the others may be completely lost.
Personally, I would be open to alternative scenarios to explain the IA spread into India, like IA migration during the IVC (before the Sintastha) while migrations downstream of Sintastha which are attested via Genetics being responsible for the consolidation of Aryas as Kshatriya/Brahmana elites of the Vedic age. But these are extraordinary scenarios and they would require at least some robust objective pieces of evidence like
Steppe signal from before 2000 BCE.
Chariots or other classical IE motifs before 2000 BCE.
Or deciphering of IVC script (or any other script from ancient India) to a Sanskrit-like language.
Outside the world of religion and mathematics, there is no absolute certainty. As a result outlier individuals from academic disciplines will continue to have non-conformist takes (like Kazanas for example). Such takes over the decades will continue to be used to create elaborate theories, be it using linguistics, genetics, and something else and they will continue getting traction in some groups (European pagans, Serb nationalists, Indian nationalists). The solutions to the PIE question are models, some more parsimonious; some tenuous, others ridiculous. There is certainly enough circumstantial data to spin wild theories putting the homeland from Iberia (initial bell beakers) to Gangetic plains (OIT), but none of these theories is the best fit for the data we have today. Maybe with newer data, some better candidates can emerge (though I doubt it). But going by the academic consensus from 3 fields -> Genetics, Linguistics, and Archaeology some model of the Steppe hypothesis is the best fit for the Indo-European question.
But for all, we know someone can still spin a theory based on some evidence that puts the PIE homeland in the sunken Atlantis.
I have had enough of the AIT/OIT debate and I will be avoiding this topic in the future. It has become a political and emotional topic and there is only so much that there can be no conclusion as what people assume to be at stake isn’t merely an academic question like Pre-Clovis peopling of the Americas.
From Dr Hamid Hussain. As usual, he has some interesting tidbits about who did what, even if you disagree with his analysis. I am also attaching a later exchange between Dr Hussain and a British analyst.
Questions from a senior Pakistani army officer and my response to them. First segment carries his views and the second segment mine.
Dear Hamid, AOA.
Thank you for sharing your usual rational and pragmatic analysis.
The reasons put forward by former intelligence officer about rapprochement with TTP are both concocted and devoid of logic. In the past also there have been many abortive deals with TTP, which have never worked.
TTA (Afghan Taliban) & TTP (Pakistani Taliban) have always collaborated with each other, at least, in sharing intelligence . Both are Deobandis and have elements in each, which have come from the other. The public opinion in Pakistan resents this deal because of the loss of thousands of lives and APS (Public School), Peshawar tragedy. There is definite proof of RAW & Afghan intelligence masterminding most incidents in Pakistan (for sure Kamra & Mehran bases). Pakistan has even presented these evidence dossiers to UN Secy Gen. What moral justification or credibility we have then to strike a deal with a terrorist organisation both from international and domestic perspectives?
Even if there is a deal, what stops TTP or even Taliban to launch a terrorist attack inside Pakistan and blame it on a splinter group of TTP? The critical question is of funding . TTP were foreign funded for the acts at the behest of sponsors. If they are unable to undertake these terrorist acts, how would they be sustained, recruited and pay to the members?
If you link the TTP deal with TLP (Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan), for a temporary truce we have lost the war.
Best Regards, Army Officer
24 December 2021
Thanks, Sir, for your insight. Sorry for the delayed response as I am busy with many chores and some hectic travels.
TTA & TTP: You have highlighted the ideological, infrastructure, recruitment and financial relationships between two entities. The problem for the Pakistan army was perception management for both domestic & foreign audiences. It was supporting TTA but fighting TTP, therefore, it tried to convince the Pakistani public that the two entities were different although privately there were concerns about symbiotic relationship between the two. Hope was that with TTA having a major say in running Afghanistan (no one expected that Taliban will walk over after making a deal with US) will be able to rein in TTP. My view was that it was a wrong assumption and lack of grasp of recent Afghan history despite deep involvement.Continue reading Pakistan vs Tehreek e Taliban, Dr Hamid Hussain’s view
It is often argued by supporters of the Aryan Migration Theory, including academics, that the data obtained from the discipline of linguistics makes it impossible to posit the Indian subcontinent as a potential Indo-European homeland.
Long before the IE proto-language was an issue, Friedrich Schlegel recognized the antiquity of Sanskrit and its parallels to related languages like Greek and Avestan. In his work Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (published in 1808) he praised the Old Indic language for its pureness and clarity and he implied that India alone must have been the origin of the later IE “colonies”. Today India can be ruled out as a homeland candidate with the utmost probability.
I am often bemused and at times annoyed by such absolutist statements. What exactly is that incontrovertible evidence that makes it most impossible for India (and the Indian subcontinent) to be even considered a potential PIE homeland ? Most often, these scholars never bother to explain how they are so sure. I doubt that they would be able to defend their statement if pressed further.
But rather than expect them to change and become more objective, it is better that we look for ourselves to see if their statements have any merit at all. And that is what I intend to do so in this piece.
We shall tackle this subject in two sections:-
1) Analyse the linguistic data from the subcontinent, Indo-European and non-Indo-European, and find out if there is sufficient evidence there to prove that Indo-Aryan languages are not native to the subcontinent.
2) Look at the nature of the linguistic evidence obtained from the Indo-Aryan and Indo-Iranian languages in the subcontinent vis-a-vis the rest of the Indo-European languages and find out if that evidence argues against or for an Indian origin of the Indo-European languages.
Sarah Haider and Tanner Greer both responded to my “disavowal” of sorts of the online Hindu Right. The constitutive unpleasantness is just structurally unappealing. Some reasonable Hindutva people have messaged me that “well, you can’t really be surprised they’re triggered by you, your name is Razib Khan.” My response is of course simple: if you are against me, I am against you. That is all.
(I know Tanner and he has never expressed anti-Hindu views, and his anti-China position should clue you into possibilities of coalition. Sarah has personally expressed curiosity about Hinduism when we’ve talked online)
Episode 3 of The History of the Indian Sub-continent series takes us to the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). Our panel journeys from the banks of the Oxus River to the Deccan plateau. We connect the genetic and archaeological dots, speculate about people whose scripts we are yet to decipher, talk about what they did for a living, their towns, and what are the missing blocks in our understanding of that age. The Dancing girl from Harappa makes an appearance as do textiles and we ask if the great bath of Mohenjo Daro was really the great bath or was it something else.
Joining Maneesh Taneja in this conversation are Razib Khan, Gaurav Lele, Mukunda Raghvan, and Shrikantha Krishnamacharya.
You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
This blog post may serve as episode nodes for some points discussed in episode 3 of the History podcast- All about IVC.
Origins of early Harappan urbanization and further integration:
We know from Mesopotamia that civilization over there did not arise in the agriculture-friendly geographies which had basic irrigation in the fertile crescent but it rose in the deep marshy south around Eridu (Ubaid period). We can think of similar models to explain the emergence of Harrapan urbanization.
Sarasvati was an active glacier-fed river in the Pleistocene (pre 10000BCE) and not the Holocene(post 10000 BCE). Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization suggest a slight decline in monsoons by 3000BCE (Piora oscillation?) before the accelerated decline after the 4.2 kiloyear event. Hence it seems unlikely that the period of integration was aided by to conducive climate – rather as in the case of South Mesopotamia, it seems to be a response to the vagaries of climate, especially in the non-glacial-fed Sarasvati channel.
Social Structures in IVC:
The article Killing the priest-king addresses some of the issues with visible social structures (or lack thereof) in the IVC. The kinship/occupation-based heterarchy is a cool model to explain some of the things we witness in IVC. Also, a model like the Gana-Sanghas (Proto Kshatriya republics) known from the eastern Mahajanapadas around 600 BCE seems to be a good model to explain the lack of centralized authority. Given what we know about the existence of efficient trade-in IVC, a trade oligarchy of merchant guilds would also fit the model.
Anthropologist Irawati Karve in her book “Hindu society” was one of the earliest to claim that the Jati system was a pre-Aryan reality upon which the abstraction of the Aryan Varna system was imposed. The hundreds of excavated IVC villages point to sophisticated trade/occupational specialization. If both the sexes work in their ancestral trades per se, it would naturally result in tribal endogamy as it makes occupational sense. Maybe we can also entertain the idea of some sort of Jati-Kinship-based social structure in IVC. I have explored this issue in more detail in the following blogpost – Early Hinduism — the epic stratification
Mechanisms of Indo-Aryan spread out of Sintasta and the Mitanni:
We know both from genetics and linguistics that the impact of proto-Indo-Aryans on Anatolia during the centuries of Mitanni dominance is extremely limited (thought superstrate is preserved). So if Indo-Aryan “Maryannu” elites could impose themselves on complex Anatolian civilizations, it is also very reasonable to extrapolate that such warriors could impose themselves on the BMAC or the remnants of collapsed IVC. A good proxy could be the later Indo Iranian – “Sakas” who were treated as mercenaries and warriors by the kingdoms of Central Asia, Iran, after 400 BCE.
Chapter 16 of Anthony’s – Horse, the wheel, and the language compiles a sound foundation (of trade, warrior bands, and kingdoms) for which such models make sense.
Agriculture and the AASI:
Shinde et al 2019 made it clear that agriculture developed in the Indus valley without demographic impact from the west (in the Holocene). However, the Neolithic tool kit from IVC is clearly derived from the Fertile Crescent tool kit with substantial local supplements like Zebu domestication, rice, cotton, and legume cultivation (possibly local domestication of barley ?).
Given that rice was cultivated in IVC and the earliest rice cultivation (date is still contested) is from Lahuradeva and Koldihwa in Uttar Pradesh, it is reasonable to assume agriculture also began somewhere in the east and expanded westward potentially meeting with Agricultural expansions from Mehrgarh->Bhiranna. Also recent findings in Bhirrana that point to earlier cultivation (yet contested) than Mehrgarh. In essence, the simplistic model of Agriculture beginning in Mehrgarh and leading onto IVC can be questioned.
Another circumstantial evidence that points to such dynamics is the mixing ratios of Indus periphery-related ancestry and AASI in IVC (6:1 to 3:2) as well as the overall high proportion of AASI in the country. It is fair to say that after Indus periphery-related ancestry, the AHG related ancestry is the second contributor to Indians broadly. Broadly in recent discussions about genetics, the AASI are considered as “hunter-gatherers”. In my opinion, this claim is highly unsubstantiated. In general, we know from Europe that when farmers mix with Hunter gathers, the farmer’s ancestry tends to dominate overwhelmingly (though it did make some come back centuries later). That doesn’t seem to be the case in India (if we assume AASI are hunter-gathers). Thus it is fair to assume that these eastern sites were initially settled primarily by the AASI and they had developed some form of cultivation in those regions (maybe cut and dash agriculture). But unless we get some ancient DNA from the east, it’s speculative at the best.
Also, the proxy ASI – which consisted of the majority AASI may be attested in the Neolithic sites from Deccan around 3rd-4th millennium BCE onwards in agro-pastoral cultures of the south (Ash mound culture, etc). Of course, before Iron Age, most of the country outside the Indo Gangetic plain would not have supported high population densities or complex societies but implying that these communities were “Hunter-gatherers” as done regularly in these topics is unsubstantiated in absence of evidence.
The religion of IVC:
Among academia, there is a tendency to dismiss attempts to link motifs of IVC to Vedic culture. Asko Parpola and Mahadevan have written extensively about it, but their work tends to be dismissed by Indologists like Michael Witzel and co. Though I am an admirer of Witzel’s methods on Vedic texts in general I do not agree with his dismissals of these works. While these works are highly speculative, they are not unfounded IMO.
Professor Dandekar of BORI had written extensively about this. In his essay titled “Proto-Historic Hinduism”, Dandekar makes many claims about Harrapan origins of Shiva. While as some scholars have pointed out, Shiva is clearly a form of Vedic Rudra who has many Indo-European parallels. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any Harappan projection on classical Hindu Shiva. Of the various claims made by Prof Dandekar, the one about Shiva’s ithyphallic nature which matches with the seal cannot be dismissed easily. The Gundesrup cauldron and other parallels are drawn to dismiss linking the Pasupati seal with Shiva are irrelevant as the claim isn’t that the figure denoted in Pasupati seat led exclusively classical Hindu Shiva, but that it may have contributed certain aspects which differentiate Rudra from Shiva.
Anyways but this topic is extremely speculative and any claims about religions at IVC are tenuous at best.