The desecration of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and the disturbances that followed throughout the country pricked the conscience of many Indians. One of them was Kamalini Sengupta, the wife of an Indian diplomat then posted in Brussels who was angered at the sheer prejudice ...

By Ali Ishrati

Published: Mon 6 Jun 2005, 1:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:20 PM

that she felt was at the root cause of the violence. Only a full appreciation of the origins of the multiracial, multicultural society she decided could lead to a better understanding among the various communities.

This then is the backdrop of a much researched documentary series, 'The Banyan Tree' charted out by Sengupta. Presenting the multicultural India in its true colours is the task she has outlined for herself. The first of the series that has already been filmed is called The Beginning. In subsequent films Sengupta, formerly a member of the elite Indian Administrative Service, plans to focus on the origins of Indian languages, religion and philosophy, architecture, dance and drama, food, education.

In her 45-minute film, The Beginning, Sengupta who was in Dubai recently, tackles the issue of migration of man into India. The narrative starts at the very beginning with a reference to pre-human era whose key find in India was 'Narmada man'. Interviews with anthropologists and other academics support her conviction that migration dates back to 1500 BC, not just in the last 500 years or so that have given rise to Indian society as it exists today.

“Around 1500 BC after the decline of the Indus civilisation, small scale migrations were taking place from Central Asia. Some of the migrants spoke an Indo-European language, which developed into what came to be known as Indo-Aryan. These people were later popularly called “Aryan” – though this nomenclature gives rise to many misconceptions,” avers Sengupta.

The migrant streams came from the west as well as the east and settled in the rich fertile lands through a process of adapting to the habitat. This process was gradual and defined by the links they forged with indigenous populations. The confluence of peoples resulting in the various migrations over the centuries, gave rise to culture, language and lifestyle phenomena that now go under the name of Indian.

“It is natural that deep traces have been left by all this mélange of cultures and civilisations. The Indian people are a heterogeneous mix, and have reflected and absorbed the swirling currents of invaders, traders, pilgrims, missionaries. Except for Africa, India has more genetic diversity than other comparable region,” says the scholar.

The country seethes with contradictions, which sometimes result in violence. Yet India has now emerged as a viable political unit. The answer lies in the country’s post independence democratic tradition, which is demanded as a right by the people of the country, Sengupta concludes.

The first airing of the documentary is expected to be over Doordarshan. The English language film is expected to be dubbed in other languages for TV viewing both in India and abroad. Sengupta plans to release CD plus book packages for distribution at schools and institutions with the aim of opening up minds and triggering discussion and related research.

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