An inter-continental team of scientists drawn out from Asia, Europe and the USA has found that the ancestors of the European Roma are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from north-western India. “We have proved scientifically that the forefathers of the European Roma Gypsies are the doma, a collective term for the ancient aboriginal populations of the Indian subcontinent, also known as Dalits,” Dr Kumaraswamy Thangaraj from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad told The Pioneer.
Dr Thangaraj led the team of scientists in the 30-month-long study.
The scientists were from CCMB, Estonian Biocentre, Tartu University, Estonia, University of Bern, Switzerland; University of Cambridge, UK and Stanford University, USA. The ancestry of European Roma Gypsies was always enmeshed in controversy though it was widely believed that they had their origins from north-west India. The exact parental population group and time of dispersal into various continents remained a mystery all these years.
The Roman Gypsies are spread all over Europe, the USA and South America. Dr Gyaneshwer Chaubey from Estonian Biocentre said the breakthrough was made by studying the Y chromosomes of the Gypsies with that of various ethnic groups in Indian subcontinent.
Nearly 10,000 males from around the world, including 7,000 males belonging to 205 ethnic population of India were screened by the scientific team which included molecular biologists, anthropologists and linguistic experts. “The aboriginal Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes populations of north-western India, traditionally referred as Dalits or domas are the most likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma,” said Dr Thangaraj.
The genome sequencing and genetic studies proved that the Doma group had their origins in south India. “Their migration to other regions of the sub-continent began 24,000 years ago. We could establish that they migrated to Europe some 1,400 years ago,” said Dr Chaubey.
Dr S Kalyanaraman, director, Saraswathi Research Centre, Chennai said the language of the Gypsies itself had its origin from India. “The language of Gypsies also appears in the Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages of RL Turner.”
“Many words of the Gypsy people are now part of the European vocabulary. For example, the word “goro” in Gypsy language means “non-gypsy married to a gypsy”. This word got absorbed in many Indian languages referring to “gora” as meaning “white or red”. The word “dom” refers to a Nuri Gypsy. The word also appears cognate with “roma” referring to a Roman. In Gypsy language, rom means “man, husband,” said Dr Kalyanaraman, who has authored a multi-lingual dictionary of 25 ancient Indian languages including the language of the Gypsies.
“Our next step is to sequence the complete genomes of hundreds of Indians which will help us to find the relation and direction of migration among the Indians, Central Asians, West Asian and Europeans.” said Dr Thangaraj and Dr Chaubey.
What is of significance is that a 2009 and 2011 research by Dr Thangaraj and Dr Chaubey in association with another group of international scientists proved that the Aryan-Dravidian theory was bunkum. “Human genome sequencing and genetic studies proved that Indians all over the sub-continent had the same genetic traits. The physical traits differed because of external factors like climate, food habits and living conditions. We have found that there is no scientific validity for arguments like Aryan Invasion or Aryan-Dravidian theory. Classifications based on caste and religion are of recent origin and has nothing to do with genetic traits,” said Dr Thangaraj and Dr Chaubey.