In an open letter, at least 122 scientists, historians, writers, activists and former bureaucrats on Friday expressed their concern to the Ministry of Culture over a report claiming that the ministry was funding a project to “trace the purity of races in India.”
“A plan to do so would be both absurd and dangerous,” the letter said. “It is absurd because the concept of biological races was discarded long ago.”
Two weeks ago, a media report had claimed that the culture ministry was in the process to acquire DNA profiling kits and related machines to establish “the genetic history and trace the purity of races in India.”
“We want to see how mutation and mixing of genes in the Indian population have happened in the last 10,000 years,” the report had quoted archaeologist Vasant Shinde as saying. “…You may even say that this will be an effort to trace the purity of races in India.”
The open letter read: “We think that all concerned should issue public disavowals of any present or future project related to race, especially one for studying racial purity.”
It went on to say: “Human history is replete with examples of horrible injustice meted out to ‘less pure’ groups by ‘more pure’ groups. Racial stereotyping of humans has been discarded, and there should be no attempt to revive the concept in India.”
“What else is expected to result from the project under consideration of the Ministry of Culture, we do not know. But if it touches on questions of ‘racial purity’, one guaranteed outcome will be the exacerbation of disharmony among Indians,” the statement added.
Following the outrage, on May 31, the Ministry of Culture said that the news report was misleading.
“The proposal is not related to establishing genetic history and ‘trace the purity of races in India’ as alluded in the article,” the ministry said in a tweet.
In their letter, the signatories welcomed the response by the culture ministry and Shinde regarding the media report.