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Indians, to restore India from its present deplorable condition to its old glory you must first know what is India. India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America.

It is well known that India has tremendous diversity, with so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic and regional groups etc. but has anyone enquired why this diversity exists? The diversity of India is because India (which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh) is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America. About 93-94% of its 1320 million people (plus those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) are not the original inhabitants of this subcontinent but descendants of immigrants, who came mainly from the North West, and to a much lesser extent from the North East. Each of these immigrant groups brought in their own culture, religion, language, etc and this explains our tremendous diversity. This needs to be explained in some detail.

People usually migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable areas. This is natural, for everyone wants comfort. 

Before the industrial revolution of the 18th Century in Western Europe there were agricultural societies in most parts of the world. What does one require for agriculture? One requires level land, fertile soil, and plenty of water for irrigation. The geography of India was such that it was paradise for agriculture. From Rawalpindi in the West to Bangladesh in the East and to Kanya Kumari in the South most of it was level land, fertile soil and with many rivers, lakes etc. for irrigation. That is why for thousands of years people kept pouring into India (mainly from the North West)

Why should anyone migrate from India to, say, Afghanistan which is a land covered with snow 4 or 5 months in a year with rocky and mountainous terrain, harsh and uncomfortable? Instead, everyone kept pouring into this comfortable land called India.

As the great Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri wrote :

“Sar zameen-e-Hind par aqwam-e-aalam ke Firaq

Qaafile aate gaye, Hindustan banta gaya”

“In the land of Hind the caravans of the world kept rolling in

And India kept getting formed”

At one time it was believed that the original inhabitants of India were the Dravidians, whose descendants today speak the Dravidian group of languages i.e. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu etc. But now the generally accepted theory is that the Dravidians too, like the Aryans, were immigrants from the North West, and the original inhabitants of India were the pre-Dravidian tribals (called adivasis or Scheduled Tribes) like the Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas etc. who speak languages which are broadly classified as the Austric group of languages. These pre-Dravidian tribals were slaughtered in great numbers by the immigrants and invaders, treated very badly by them and driven into forests (much like the native Americans who were driven into reservations by the white immigrants in North America). They constitute hardly 6-7% of India’s population today.

A lot has been written and speculated about the Aryan invasion or immigration into India, some strongly supporting the theory and others (particularly the Hindutva votaries) strongly opposing it. So let me express my own opinion, though I am not going into great detail.

The development of comparative linguistics by Western scholars like Sir William Jones from the late 18th century onwards proved the striking similarities between Sanskrit and European languages like Greek and Latin (and also Persian). This proved the existence of an Indo-European group of languages, and this in turn indicated that the speakers of Sanskrit and the European languages had common ancestors. 

Now either the Aryans were originally inhabitants of India (as the Hindutva ideologues contend) who later migrated North westwards and reached Europe, or they originally inhabited some area in between Europe and the Indian subcontinent (like the steppes of Russia), one branch migrating westwards into Europe while another migrating south wards through Persia into India.

The difficulty in accepting the first theory is this: people migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable ones. India was already a relatively comfortable area, with lots of level land, fertile soil and water sources, so why should people from there migrate North westwards passing through uncomfortable areas like Afghanistan which is cold and mountainous and then move further North to still colder areas like Russia? That does not make sense. So the second theory is the more acceptable one, and it establishes that the Aryans were immigrants who came into India from the North West.

So who were the original inhabitants of India ?

At one time it was believed that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants, who spoke the Dravidian group of languages.

But later research showed many difficulties in accepting this thesis. Firstly, it does not account for the Austric group of languages (which are very different from the Dravidian languages) spoken by the tribals of India like the Mundas, the Gonds, the Bhils, the Santhals, the Todas of the Nilgiris, etc. Secondly, it does not explain how a Dravidian language Brahui is spoken even today by 3 million people (if not more) in parts of Pakistan like Balochistan.

Now the generally accepted theory is that not only the Aryans but even the Dravidians were immigrants into India, and the original inhabitants of India were the pre-Dravidian tribals or adivasis (the Scheduled Tribes) who today constitute hardly 6 or 7% of the population of India.

So India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, the difference being that while immigrants came into North America mainly from Europe over the last 500 years or so, they have been coming into India (mainly from the North West) for thousands of years.

This thesis, that India is broadly a country of immigrants, explains the tremendous diversity of India, for each group of immigrants brought with them their own culture, customs, religion, language, etc.

If we compare India with China we see that unlike India there is broad (though not absolute) homogeneity in China. Most Chinese have Mongoloid faces, 95% of them belong to one ethnic group called the Han, and they have a common written script called Mandarin (Mandarin is also a spoken language, though there are other spoken languages like Cantonese). 

In India, on the other hand, there is tremendous diversity, which is accounted for by the fact that we are broadly a country of immigrants.

In view of our tremendous diversity the only policy which can keep us united and take us on the path of progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities and sects, otherwise our country will break apart. This was the policy of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, the policy of sulh-e-kul, of taking everyone together, and that is why India under the Mughal Empire prospered so much (we held almost 30% of the world’s trade at that time, as contrasted to hardly 3% today) and why the Mughal Empire lasted so long.

In my next Address to the Indian Nation I will explain how powerful divisive forces, which strike at the very root of the character of India, entered our society and body politic and which greatly weakened us. It is essential to understand this if we wish to rise again as a great nation and once again occupy our rightful place in the comity of nations, and enable our people to lead prosperous lives.


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