Browncast episode 101: The “Swedish model” of Covid-19 response

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up with the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Due to the costs of both recording software and storage space, I would appreciate if you could also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. It also compensates me for my admittedly mediocre editing (I’m a data scientist/geneticist). If we get more patrons I have reached out to have someone professional edit…but really we don’t have the funds now.

If you can’t give (in these times may cannot!), I would appreciate more positive reviews!

In this episode, I talk to Yeyo, a Peruvian-based-in-Sweden. We discuss the Nordic nation’s response to coronavirus, and Yeyo’s own change in views.


The memes reflected in our genes

One of the major findings from Narasimhan et al. is that when it comes to total ancestry, Brahmin groups are enriched in the groups which have more “steppe” ancestry than you’d expect (West Eurasian ancestry is a function of steppe + IVC). That being said, Narasimhan et al. could not find evidence that Brahmins are a monophyletic clade. What this means is that Brahmins do not descend from a common group of founders, but a heterogeneous ancestral population.

How can we reconcile the consistently higher steppe ancestry with the fact that Brahmins seem to have diverse origins?

I think the answer has to do with the social ecology of India and the Brahmin role within that ecology.

In the period between 2,000 to 3,500 years ago, there was considerable genetic and cultural heterogeneity within India. This heterogeneity and population structure were “broken” and reconfigured through significant admixture. For example, where Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh have 25-30% steppe ancestry, Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are closer to 5-10%. In South India castes such as Reddys also have steppe ancestry, in the range of 5% or so. This is indicative of the spread and admixture of steppe enriched people all across the subcontinent.

But the flip side of the spread of steppe ancestry is that steppe people themselves mixed with local groups. ~25% of the ancestry of Uttar Pradesh Brahmins is from indigenous “Ancient Ancestral South Indians.” This is above and beyond the AASI ancestry from the Indus Valley population (in contrast, the Jat Rors are ~10% AASI, and well above ~30% steppe). Brahmins in Bengal and Tamil Nadu are very distinctive from non-Brahmin populations, and in their overall genome more like Uttar Pradesh Brahmins, but, both populations clearly have ancestry from local groups (~25% of the ancestry).

The reasons for why populations lose their distinctiveness are straightforward. Endogamy is not perfect. But, I would hold that the cultural customs of endogamy are going to be more persistent and strict among ritual priestly castes. My hypothesis that the original Indo-Aryan populations were invariant in terms of ancestry fraction (steppe, IVC, AASI). But the non-priestly castes would not enforce endogamy so strongly, because their status was accrued and obtained through other means than ritual purity. For the Kshatriyas, for example, status is obtained through power and domination. For Vaishyas, it is through primary and secondary production. Both these groups intermarried with local people who were militarily and economically of high status. In contrast, there were no equivalents for the Brahmins, who were spreading a particular ideological self-conception.

This is not a universal explanation. That is one reason I allude to Jat Rors. But, I think it gets at why Brahmins stand out as being steppe enriched.


Why Did the EIC Win in India

From Major Amin. A look at some factors that made the EIC so successful militarily. As usual, the Royal Navy gets a lot of credit.

Native troops played a significant role in the East India Company’s conquest of  India. Certain aspects however made the military potential and effectiveness of East India Company’s troops stand out from their other opponents in India. The East India Company employed European officers trained in the European way of war to drill train and command native Indian troops.In addition in almost every battle native troops were grouped around a relatively much smaller nucleus of European troops. Another factor which played an important part in the East India Company’s conquest of India was naval power.Naval power gave flexibility to the operations of the East India Company. This meant that troops from Bengal Army could be swiftly transported from Bengal Presidency to the Madras presidency,thereby reinforcing the Madras troops in case of any serious military reverse. This happened many times during the Mysore Wars. Naval power also played an important role in logistically supporting the operations of land based armies. Three widely separated bases of the English East India Company which were interconnected with each other by sea meant that loss of any one of these could not defeat the company,since troops from one presidency could be switched to another quickly via the sea route. No single Indian power had common borders with all the three presidency and this meant that no single Indian power could destroy the English East India Company. The only way that this could be done was by an alliance of native powers and this was made extremely difficult since no two native powers could agree on anything for a long time. Above all the center of gravity of the English East India Company was naval power and no native power possessed naval potential to challenge British naval mastery. For sometime the French were in a position to do so,but the only opportunity to do so was lost during the Second Mysore War at Cuddalore when all the French squadron under Admiral D’ Orves had to do was to remain in position off the coast of Cuddaiore while the English East India Company’s main army under Sir Eyre Coote facing Hyder Ali of Mysore could have been starved into surrender. (1) Due to some inexplicable reason D ‘ Orves simply sailed away and the French lost their last decisive opportunity to defeat the English East India Company. Continue reading “Why Did the EIC Win in India”


Extraction, a Bangladeshi view

A good review of the film Extraction by a Bangladeshi. The author perceives a pro-Indian and anti-Bangladeshi bias, which I didn’t really see, but your mileage may vary. But this part is of interest to me:

Extraction carries all the elements of the racist Islamophobic mindset: Muslims cannot run the state, they have many children, their economy is a criminal shambles, their country is uninhabitable, their leaders are outlaws, there is no human dignity anywhere. The colours of this Bangladesh are as yellow as the desert. In contrast, the views of Mumbai are full of turquoise light – neat, beautiful, and luxurious. Mumbai’s mafia child is capable of love; Tyler too is mourning the death of his child. Even villainous Saju has a beautiful family. These spices create empathy towards cruel protagonists.

Extraction was not Islamophobic. In fact, extraction seems to exist in a world where religion does not exist. Too often cultural criticism “fits” art into preexistent analytic frames. Some of the elements of Extraction are perfectly aligned with well-known motifs. Chris Hemsworth is a “Mighty Whitey” par excellence. But a Western watcher of the film would have no idea that Indians are mostly Hindu and Bangladeshis are mostly Muslim, and in fact, a Western watcher would not even know that these are religious people.

If I had to make an analogy, the Bangladesh depicted in the film seems most like the 1990s gangster-dominated Russia, with the aesthetic of 1990s Mogadishu.

The fundamental problem with a lot of modern criticism and analysis is to the fallback upon common arguments and analytic structures, which add nothing familiar, and simply reinforce the familiar.


Partition story, part 1

My father, Nadir Ali, writes short stories and poetry in Punjabi. He is in his mid-eighties now and has been writing his autobiography in Punjabi and my sister translated a segment that deals with his memories of partition. He was a little over 11 years old at that time. My grandfather was a lawyer in Gujrat city. There are more stories from that time that I hope we can translate at some point. For example, my grandfather rescued some Hindu/Sikh women who had been kidnapped by the rioters and my father was the go-between who was young enough to go into the women’s quarters during those negotiations; I hope to get that story written down someday.
Anyway, my grandfather never really reconciled with partition. He wrote to his Hindu friend Hari Singh regularly until 1965 and I  remember hearing that he once lamented in a letter to his friend (they both wrote in Urdu) “what a tragedy and a travesty that you, who are more Muslim than me, are in India, and I, who am more Hindu than you, am in Pakistan”. He would also use Indian time (30 minutes ahead of Pakistan standard time) as his own “standard time” for decades after partition.

Memories of Partition. Nadir Ali Continue reading “Partition story, part 1”


Hindu philosophy was mathematical, but Hindu nationalists are innumerate

In the early 2000s, there was a lot of demographic alarmism about Islam and European societies. Pundits such as Mark Steyn were predicting Islam would take over some European nation-states by 2020 as the majority religion. For a while, I credited that sort of thing. After all, Islam is an assimilation problem in most Western democratic societies.

This is the politically incorrect truth that the Left is even more vigorous in denying to this day than it was in the 2000s.

But I happened to change my views to be less pessimistic. One thing is that I read Philip Jenkin’s God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis. Jenkins is a thorough and objective scholar. An Episcopalian with moderate views on the whole, he reviewed the evidence of violence in the Koran and the Bible and came away surprised to note that the Bible was far more violent (in large part due to the Hebrew Bible). I recommend all his books but in particular The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died (Jenkins is neither a fundamentalist nor secular, so he operates in a good middle-ground).

In any case, Jenkins lays out the argument that Christian identity is far stronger in Europe than American skeptics presume. Islam will be a large minority religion in 2100, not the dominant religion. The numbers are with Jenkins here, though the demographics are concerning to me over the long-term.

I bring this up because too often Hindu nationalists and their fellow travelers undermine the credibility of their arguments by forwarding ridiculous numbers. Here is a comment on my other weblog:

Small number converted and demography did the rest.

Conversions really began after Shah Jahan & peaked with Aurangzeb in Panjab.

Christianity in Rome was similar.

You can look at old census of Bengal and Panjab to see the few% increase every decade till partition.

Turks (turkey) had numeric parity and lower tfr than Greek Armenia till ww1. Today 8x more,

Demographic Siege of Al-Hind

Hindus were there from Indonesia to Armenia.

Probably by 2050ad will just be hated minority in India.

35% of newborns in India already Muslim. More in cities.. Only Hindu migration from countryside has prevented full slide to civil war with outside support by Abrahamic powers.

The comment piqued my interest because of the assertion of conversion in the period between 1650-1700. This seems interesting. I wanted to follow this up. But then the person claims that

1) 35% of newborns in India are Muslim
2) Muses that by 2050 Hindus will be a minority

This makes no sense. First, the TFR for Muslims is 2.6 vs. 2.1 for Hindus across India as of the late 2010s. Assuming that 70% of the reproductively active population are Hindus and 20% Muslims (being generous to the numbers above) I still only get 26% newborns Muslim. The point about this is that lots of people throw numbers around to add firmness and plausibility to their argument, but lying about numbers just makes you seem like a charlatan.

Second, even if 35% of the newborns in 2020 are Muslim, how is it that in 30 years the majority of the population will be Muslim??? It is theoretically possible, but very unlikely. Using current rates of differential fertility Muslims will overtake Hindus in 200 years, not 30 years.

The comment above isn’t actually atypical. Many of the Hindu nationalists on this weblog have left similar comments, while I have Hindu nationalist friends who have suggested to be widespread conversion to crypto-Christianity all across India.

I am very skeptical of this in a broad sense now for a simple reason: Narendra Modi is incredibly popular.  It could be that all of these hidden Christians and Muslims love Modi, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think the reality is Hindus are about ~80% of India’s population, and Hindus on the whole love Modi.

My logic is similar to the argument around Yezidi numbers. For decades there were arguments about Yezidi numbers in Iraq. The answer was clear when they voted en masse for a particular political party. It turns out the Yezidis were right that there were many of them, and the Muslims were wrong.

To be clear, when it comes to the Hindus vs. the Muslims, my own personal bias is probably with the Hindus because I am a murtad. The personal is political to some extent. But that does not mean that I will accept and promote lies, stupidity, and misrepresentations. The truth is strong enough to stand on its own.


Brownpundits Browncast episode 100: Creating a New Medina, Venkat Dhulipala

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up with the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Due to the costs of both recording software and storage space, I would appreciate if you could also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. It also compensates Razib for his editing.  If we get more patrons we have reached out to have someone professional edit…but really we don’t have the funds now.

If you can’t give (in these times many cannot!), I would appreciate more positive reviews!

Coming up with an idea of PakistanIn this episode we talk to eminent historian Venkat Dhulipala. Venkat is the author of “Creating a New Medina, state power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial India” and we talk about the book and the ideology of Pakistan as well as his current interests and projects. We also manage a shoutout to Keerthik Sashidhran, who everyone should read.

This remains a controversial topic and I hope people add value in the comments.



Causes of the Revolt of 1857

This is a longish piece written by Major Amin. As readers of brownpundits are well aware, major Amin is a military historian (and a very good one) who also has strong (and mostly “not academic”) opinions about history in general. These are his thoughts on the Indian Mutiny (aka “War of independence”). Even those who disagree with particular opinions may find some insights worth reading.. in any case, it will generate interesting comments 🙂

What follows is from Major Amin, unedited and unexpurgated. Continue reading “Causes of the Revolt of 1857”