By Kumar David –
I will use the designation Ceylonese instead of Sri Lankan because it has scientific inclusivity more suited to my topic. What got me excited was when a cantankerous buddy (ask his wife about him), for a change, sent me this most welcome YouTube link. I will not attempt to summarise it but every Colombo Telegraph reader should watch it and circulate it among compatriots. In one sentence, what authors (Drs Gayani Galhena and Nandika Perera), two local genetic (DNA for fools like us) researchers, have established from DNA studies is that Upcountry Tamils, Moors, Ceylon Tamils and Sinhalese differ very little genetically. In crude terms they are much the same DNA clique notwithstanding their resolve to slaughter each other in political space. A simple summary it is to say that the four tribes which inhabit this island are a common achchāru that is not easy to unscramble in DNA-space. Let me refer to this lot collectively as the Ceylon Cluster of Four, or CC4 for short.
Surely this must arouse your intellectual appetite. Now turn from the video which is for popular consumption to the scientific paper. Yes, it was mostly Greek to a moron like me, but if you are persistent, look up hard words and reflect on a watered-down understanding (no doubt to the chagrin of the authors) you can learn quite a bit. However, before proceeding allow me to make three mild criticisms. The Introduction says the Tamils turned up in the island in the “fifth century AD”. Then who the devil was Ellalan (எல்லாளன்); didn’t he rule Anuradhapura from 636 to 604 BC? Secondly the paper always uses the term “Indian Tamils”, not Upcountry Tamils – this is gibberish, all of us are from the Indian Mainland. And third, among its historical references I see lesser works but no mention of Professors Leslie Gunewardana and Karthigesu Indrapal, clearly the best and most relevant historians in this field. That’s all; now call me a knit picking bastard and get on with the paper, it’s worth exploration even if you are not in the field.
An interesting finding is that CC4 people can be marked off from other populations. Polymorphism is when several traits or tendencies co-exist (O, A, B and AB blood groups are universal in all populations). The researchers had to combine many findings together to deduce recognisable group features. They plot on each of two axes two such composites that they call a “multidimensional scaling plot” of 18 world ethnicities including CC4. To keep things within laymen’s comprehension let us say the two axes represent combined DNA information that is significant in studies of this type. The plot shows all CC4 ethnicities clustered close together in the middle, and far away from Africans and East Asians and moderately distanced from Europeans. (The Bhils are a 17 million strong tribal group in North-western India – Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan – and the Bangladeshis of course are Bengalis). The researchers contend that this illustrates close correlation among the four CC4 ethnicities. Historically this makes sense.
The reason may also be that the data selected in some way gave prominence to stuff that mattered in the last three millennia, but not to origin theories of homo-sapiens (the East African human cradle and the Out of Africa 2 theses). I have had a brief email exchange with Dr Galhena who said: “Anyway our study does not explore the origins, but has explained present day genetic composition on the basis of the known historical context”. In so far as known history goes, the diagram makes a lot of sense. The Sinhalese, Ceylon Tamils and Moors have inter-copulated for one to three millennia, while the Upcountry Tamils have been physically separate for most of this time whether in Sri Lanka or in India.
Once you get started you will find much stimulating stuff to explore about global and national population dynamics. A non-science side-benefit is that Lanka has been ethnically polarised by religious quacks, nationalist degenerates and political opportunists for too long; anything that undermines this wickedness is welcome.