Indian males caste in European mould?

By Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: The upper caste Indian male population is genetically closer to Europeans than the lower castes, which are more "Asian," according to a potentially controversial new study being published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Human Genome.

The authors of the study say their findings support historical data indicating that West Eurasians migrating into India during the last 10,000 years were mostly male. An analysis of the genetic material also shows that the "ancestors of Indian men and women came from different parts of the world," says Michael Bamshad of the University of Utah, who led the research group.

The researchers say this difference in gender and genetic make-up may also hold the key to the origin of the caste system. The migrating or invading male population left descendants in the higher than lower castes and may have even devised the caste the caste system, Bamshad said in an interview with this correspondent on Thursday.

Bamshad's study showed that each caste's mitochondrial DNA, which derives from the mother only, has a greater similarity to Asians than to Europeans, but the upper castes show less similarity than do the lower castes.

Conversely, Y-chromosome data, derived from the father only, show each caste more similar to Europeans, with the upper castes being most similar, probably because more Eurasian males migrated to India than did Eurasian females.

Such a finding could also imply that the women of the sub-continent are more Indian than are men.

To "increase the power of the study," Bamshad and his associates also examined 40 additional genes that are inherited from the father and the mother. All of these data strongly supported the conclusion that upper castes have a higher genetic similarity to Europeans than do lower castes, the study says.

"These are potentially controversial results," Bamshad said. "But we are able to demonstrate unequivocally that the upper castes are more similar to Europeans than lower castes, and that women are more mobile -- mostly upwardly -- in the caste system."

The study in fact says the genetic distance is closest between Europeans and Brahmins (0.10), followed by Kshatriyas (0.12) and Vysyas (0.16).

"Assuming that contemporary Europeans reflect West Eurasian affinities, these data indicate that the amount of West Eurasian admixture with Indian population may have been proportionate to caste rank," the study says.

Bamstad's collaborators in the study include researchers from the Andhra University, University of Madras and the Anthropological Survey of India.

The group has done work in this area before. In a previously published paper in Nature magazine, Bamshad's team said each Indian caste had developed a distinctive genetic profile, particularly among men, and more so when there was little intermarriage. But the women's genes suggested greater social mobility.

The discovery suggests that women on occasion marry men from higher castes, producing children that have their husband's social rank, the researchers said, claiming the "stratification of the Hindu caste system is driven by women

Community leaders agree to avoid tension

The Times of India News Service

MYSORE: A peace talk was conducted at Kuppegala village in Mysore taluk to pacify aggrieved villagers following a clash between dalits and non-dalits during an utsav on April 21.

The leaders of both the communities agreed to the advice of senior district officials assuring them that such clashes would be avoided in future.

It may be recalled, during a procession at the utsav, there were heated exchanges between two persons of different communities. Thereafter, there were frequent reports of tension at the place with members of both the groups indulging in frequent clashes.

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Published on: May 21, 2001
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