On the Yahoo Cybalist, devoted to Indo-European studies, I sent in the following reply to S. Kalyanaraman, who took exception to my review of Harald Haarmann's book, particularly to my identifying "Hindu noise-makers" as responsible for misinforming the Hindu flock with their assertion that "nobody believes in the Aryan Invasion Theory anymore".
interesting to see this reply on this specialist list from someone who has his own list, Hinducivilization. It could be informative for those vaguely interested in this debate but unacquainted with the Hindu input.
The first doubts about the East-European Homeland Theory (in respect of India known as the Aryan Invasion Theory) arose in the 1980s among Indian (and a few Western) archaeologists, because in excavation after excavation, the evidence for any Aryans moving into India failed to turn up. At the same time, the evidence of the political use of te AIT both in Europe (colonialism, racism, Nazism) and in India (various movements and government policies pitting upper against lower castes, Indo-Aryans against Dravidians, non-tribals against tribals, also used by the Christian missionaries) was overwhelming. Some Hindu polemicists deduced from its political use that the theory had to be wrong -- a category mistake, but convincing enough to numerous Hindus, So, by the early 1990, the Aryan Non-Invasion Theory became very popular, and was embraced by the Hindu nationalist movement. An American, Edwin Bryant, gave it the name Out-of-India Theory, a flattering exaggeration because most partisans of this theory, including practically all writers about it, only dealt with (viz. denied) the Aryan immigration into India, but didn't deal with the question how Iranian and European populations came to speak cognate languages. Their horizon stopped at the Khyber pass.
All the same, a few very vocal and influential "Hindu noise-makers" announced, and millions of Hindus swallowed, that "nobody believes the Aryan Invasion Theory anymore" -- this at a time when a great many Indo-Europeanists had not even heard that India was proposed as a candidate for homeland status, while the others just dismissed it and didn't consider it worth any study. So, when in 2005 the school textbooks in California came up for review, two Hindu organizations proposed a series of edits to the chapter on Hinduism. Some were uncontroversial, e.g. replacing the photograph of a mosque with the caption "Hindu temple" by the photograph of a proper Hindu temple. Some were cases of intra-Hindu infighting, e.g. replacing the philosophical "self-realization" as the goal of Hinduism with the devotional "God-realization". Outsiders who took an interest in this, could have an opinion on this, but it was not serious enough to warrant interference. But when Hindus proposed that "the Aryan Invasion Theory is wrong" and "nobody believes in it anymore", a revolutionary c.q. a plainly wrong statement, this alerted a number of Hindu-bashing groups including several academics with a say in the Aryan question.
What followed was procedurally not very kosher, with the academics gate-crashing into the debate with a very partisan stance being accepted by the educational authorities as arbiters to a controversy which they themselves had started. However, American Hindus who don't live on another planet could have known that something like this would happen. They could have proposed that the AIT is "controversial", the "the jury is still out" on Vedic origins, or so, but to assert that the AIT has been found to be unequivocally wrong, and that this finding is generally accepted, just had to provoke a reaction.
So, the Hindus involved were soundly defeated: this edit, and many others which otherwise would have passed, were rejected. This is the work of the "Hindu noise-makers" who were deluded and misinformed their own flock.
I occasionally get what some call "hate mail" from Hindus who are angry with me for calling this outcome a "defeat". Yes, what else was it? The best proof is that they themselves started a court case to overrule the decision of the educational authorities. After spending 40.000 dollars or so, they lost that one too. It seems to me that a community which can't distinguish a victory from a defeat is in really serious trouble. Moreover, this way they don't learn from their defeat and fail to improve themselves to score a victory in the future.
Well, at least the noise-makers got their come-uppance, and we can ignore them further. As for the archaeological and now also the genetic evidence: it is certainly relevant and important, but it cannot decide what language the people concerned spoke. In one immigration, the immigrants adopt the language of the natives, in another they impose their own language, in a third a more complex in-between situation develops. No excavation can decide on language. So, sciences dealing with products of the human mind have to be considered, chiefly linguistics, and where applicable, comparative mythology and other philological disciplines.
It is just a handful of people who have seriously developed an argument for the Out-of-India Theory. Anyone interested in this debate is welcome to deal with (and possibly refute) these few books:
* Shrikant Talageri: The Rg-Veda and the Avesta (Delhi 2000) and The Rg-Veda, the Final Evidence (2008);
* Koenraad Elst: Asterisk in Bharopiyasthan (2007);
* Nicholas Kazanas: Indo-Aryan Origins (2010).
These books have so far received a lot of abuse, swearwords, hand-waving and other dismissals, but no competent reply. The solid belief in the AIT is based on a wilful ignorance of the arguments for the OIT.
Dr. Koenraad Elst