On the similarities and differences in the caste-specific (adivasi etc.) genetic markers

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On the similarities and differences in the caste-specific (adivasi etc.) genetic markers

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:42 pm

Human genetic profile is very complex. The results and conclusions based on genetic tests to identify and separate large groups of people according to genetic basis are fraught with uncertainties, errors and misinterpretations. Since the environment can play a major role in bringing genetic changes (mutations and alterations) in people (Ref. 1), it is often difficult to predict correctly whether a genetic marker found during genetic tests points to the ancestry alone or it might also reflect the long term effect of environmental influences on people in the family lineage.
 
As explained in Ref. (1) with respect to the epigenetic influences on individuals due to environmental factors  (such as diet, climate, lifestyle and occupation etc.), the presence of certain common / similar genetic markers during genetic testing these days on a small number of individuals selected randomly, or otherwise, from large groups of people (living far apart even) might be simply the outcome of similar long term environment effecting people (such as due to similar family occupations, lifestyles and diets etc.), rather than their initially long time ago hailing from the same source (parentage) and same place (area).
 
Note the caste system comprising various castes as separate social units did not exist initially and people basically were free to choose vocations suited to their needs and capabilities. Only later, and quite inadvertently, the society was stratified on the basis of family occupations (including people choosing marriage partners having similar family occupations and backgrounds) leading to castes and the caste system. Thus any similarities (or differences) noticed these days in genetic markers during genetic testing on people of the same (or different) castes are mostly the outcome of epigenetic modifications over several generations from similar (or different) long term environments, such as diets, climates, lifestyles and occupations (especially the manual or non-manual type occupations, as well as the long term exposure to occupation related pathogens and allergens, and people selecting marriage partners from similar backgrounds and occupations and producing offspring with them).  
 
The epigenetic changes due to long term environmental influences resulting in the special genetic markers would also have occurred in people known collectively as “tribal” and “adivasi” these days. The Rig Veda (the oldest text in Hinduism) talks about the ancestors of everyone currently, including the adivasi (or tribal and living these days usually socially and economically at the fringes of society) as well as the non-adivasi (nontribal, representing the rest of population and forming the bulk of society), to have started in the beginning (at the dawn of civilization) as tribal while living in tribes (the first habitats of humanity). Thus even those considered as non-adivasi or nontribal these days seem to have their ancestors starting long time ago (when civilization first began) as tribals and living in tribes, just like the ancestors of the current adivasi or tribal people. Needless to say, any significant differences these days in the genetic markers of people called adivasi / tribal from the genetic markers of others (considered now as non-adivasi / nontribal and forming the bulk of population) are most likely due to the differences in their long term multi-generational environments (lifestyles and occupations etc., explained above), rather than due to different ancestries, mistaken as tribal versus nontribal, or adivasi versus non-adivasi, or the former (adivasi, tribal) as the local / indigenous population versus the latter (non-adivasi, nontribal) as the outsider / foreigner arriving later.
 
Perhaps the ancestors of current non-adivasi / nontribal people (the bulk of society these days) were quite open to change and progress and they might have continuously transformed themselves (individually and as families etc.) according to the needs of time. This probably led them (including their children and descendants) to not only advance socially and economically but also shed the initial image and label as tribal / adivasi (adivasi meaning primitive or from the beginning in the socioeconomic sense, and not necessarily adivasi as original in the genetic or geographical sense). Conversely, such might not be the case with current adivasi / tribal people, whose ancestors probably adhered firmly to the old (initial / primitive) lifestyle and occupation and in the process let the change and progress slip by. They inadvertently thus retained the tag as tribal and adivasi (primitive) for themselves and gradually ended up at the fringes of society in comparison to others (considered currently nontribal / non-adivasi).
 
In conclusion, rather than the result of differences in long ago ancestries or the ancestors of current adivasi or tribal people representing the local / indigenous population and the ancestors of others (the rest of population or nontribal / non-adivasi currently) as migrants / foreigners,  any difference in genetic markers these days in adivasi (tribal) people from the rest of population (nontribal and non-adivasi) seems mainly the result of environmentally induced epigenetic differences in two case: the former (adivasi / tribal groups) living in isolation for generations while exposed to a narrow range and small variety of environmental factors (limited occupations and lifestyles, including having to produce offspring from partners within their small communities), whereas the latter (nontribal or non-adivasi, the rest of population) for a long time scattered over a huge area and exposed to all kinds of environmental factors (involving tremendous diversity in occupations and lifestyles, including finding marriage partners and producing children from a very vast population).
 
References
 
(1)         Subhash C. Sharma,  “Genetic testing issues in the study of ancient population migrations in India (includes info. About the Out-of-Africa Theory),”  Oct. 17, 2012,  http://education.sulekha.com/genetic-testing-issues-in-the-study-of-ancient-population-migrations-in-india_594422_blog    (http://such.forumotion.com/t19332-genetic-testing-issues-in-the-study-of-ancient-population-migrations-in-india-includes-info-about-the-out-of-africa-theory)
 
 

Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
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Seva Lamberdar

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