A tolerant India –of Blacks, Whites and Browns

Mr. Vijay Tarun wondered aloud, why when we have South Indians, you know, blacks- with us, how can we be racist?

Some were angered and exasperated. I was only amused. Greatly amused.

For one thing, he was not malicious at all. He was actually trying to put forward a genuine point of view. It is just that he is too old-worldly to understand the modern nuances of political correctness.

Secondly, I know from personal experience that the much proclaimed prejudice against South Indians by the people from North does not exist. Not at least in the sense that South Indians are inferior. On the contrary. My colleagues in Delhi and as far away as Bengal tells me that, patients seek out and flock to doctors from the south.

Islands of prejudice exist, and will exist, and it works both ways.

Are we particularly racist? Or are we specifically more intolerant than people in other countries?

No. I don’t think so. It is inherent in human societies to dislike out groups and to oppress groups lower down in a social hierarchy. It may be true that on an average, an Indian may be slightly more overt in expressing prejudice, than say a European or a Canadian. That is just because he or she from Canada or Europe has internalised the secular, democratic values of a modern society and has enough self control that tends to override the inherent ancient ways of thinking.

When we were an independent country, everyone else in the world predicted our collapse into anarchy. Even if we didnt fragment, said the experts, we will not be able to function as a democracy.

When we look at Pakistan, Iran, Arab countries including Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, many Latin American countries and even Singapore and China- we are a notable exception in this regard. So we really are tolerant.

But why? What made us that way?

For that matter, why are some of us black, some brown, and some have Caucasian features bordering on whiteness?

It is not true that it is South Indians that are black. But the South does have a preponderance of black people. But we have people of all hues and colours. We are a kaleidoscope of cultures, languages and Gods.

Basically, our languages can be grouped into four varieties- Dravidian, Indo- European, Munda and indo Tibetan(in parts of north east).

The Munda languages are a remnant of the original coastal migration of people from Africa that started 60000 years ago and reached Australia by migrating along the coast. It is also known as the ‘beachcomber express’. Remnants are seen in tribal groups all along the coast, in Tamil nadu, Kerala,Orissa etc.

Indo-European Languages are derived from Sanskrit.

Dravidian languages of Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu etc are a different language family that has no parallel anywhere else in the world (Barring controversial ones and Brahui, a language in Pakistan).

So apart from Munda people and the obviously trans-himalayan Tibetan migrants in the north east, the linguistic, cultural, architectural and historical evidences, pointed to the co existence of two different cultures in India for a long time. This is where a severe dispute is now on between ideological camps.

Recently, population genetic studies involving mitochondrial DNA (confined to females) and Y chromosomal DNA (only in males) have made human migration routes from 100000 years ago as clear as it can get. Astonishingly clear. Dramatic, objective results are now at hand.

Look at this abstract of a very well researched paper that came out in the American Journal of population genetics, authored by both Indian and western researchers:

“Most Indian groups descend from a mixture of two genetically divergent populations: Ancestral North Indians (ANI) related to Central Asians, Middle Easterners, Caucasians, and Europeans; and Ancestral South Indians (ASI) not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent. The date of mixture is unknown but has implications for understanding Indian history. We report genome-wide data from 73 groups from the Indian subcontinent and analyze linkage disequilibrium to estimate ANI-ASI mixture dates ranging from about 1,900 to 4,200 years ago. In a subset of groups, 100% of the mixture is consistent with having occurred during this period. These results show that India experienced a demographic transformation several thousand years ago, from a region in which major population mixture was common to one in which mixture even between closely related groups became rare because of a shift to endogamy.”

For further reference I am copying the link. Follow it. There are other papers. Read them all.


Let me clarify the biases and the tendency to twist history. I am part of a caste grouping of Christians in Kerala called Syrian Christians or Nasranis that goes back to pre-history, and I want to be thought of as part of an India that is a melting pot of different cultures that includes mine. Neither I nor my ancestors were ever persecuted in this country. On the contrary, I have been able to keep my self-respect. Same goes for the Muslims in my state, or for that matter, the parsis, the Jews and sub groupings that sought to develop a distinct identity at various points- like the Budhists, Sikhs and Jains. The Hindu culture that pre-ceded was also a composite culture, a beautiful tolerant tapestry.

The bias on my part is clear.

The only thing we have to note is that: (re-read that bit)

“100% of the mixture is consistent with having occurred during this period. These results show that India experienced a demographic transformation several thousand years ago, from a region in which major population mixture was common to one in which mixture even between closely related groups became rare because of a shift to endogamy.”

Every Indian is a mixture. A South Indian may show a preponderance of ASI genes, and a North Indian may show predominance of ANI, but even our tribal populations show a mixture.

The genetic clue unmistakably shows that at around 1800 to 2000 years ago, there was a relatively sudden absence of mixing, a fossilization of caste.

Swami Vivekananda says:

“Caste distinction is a barrier to India’s progress. It narrows, restricts, separates. It will crumble before the advance of ideas.

The caste system is opposed to the religion of the Vedanta. Caste is a social custom, and all our great preachers have tried to break it down. From Buddhism downwards, every sect has preached against caste, and every time it has only riveted the chains.” (http://www.swamivivekanandaquotes.org/2013/12/swami-vivekananda-quotes-on-caste-and.html)

We , as a nation and as a people, have made great strides in this regard. This is also a tribute to our tolerance. I am sure we will be able to include everyone in our country in our forward march to destiny.

Now we have the answer to the question- why we are generally tolerant?

Because, as a composite culture that has slowly learned to live with each other, we had to be.

So, Mr Tarun’s well meaning outburst is benign, compared to the idea that we are a monolithic block of righteousness, into which recently some miscreants have wormed in and defiled us, and somehow cleansing is possible.

That would have been malignant.


Dr Jimmy

I am a Doctor, Writer and Science Communicator. I am a member of Info- Clinic, and have written a few books. This site features my blog posts and stories. Thank you for visiting. ഞാൻ എഴുതാൻ ഇഷ്ടമുള്ള ഉള്ള ഒരു ഡോക്ടർ ആണ് . നിങ്ങളുടെ താത്പര്യത്തിന് നന്ദി .