Lucknow Pathans have Jewish roots?
NEW DELHI: Despite their animosity, do Jews and the Pathans in India come from the same ancestral stock — the biblical lost tribes of Israel? A subject of speculation among academicians in the past, the Israeli government has now asked an Indian geneticist, Shahnaz Ali, to study the link between the Afridi Pathans based in the Lucknow region and certain tribes of Israel who migrated from their native place to all over Asia a few thousand years ago.
Ali, who has been granted a scholarship by Israel’s foreign ministry to work on the project, is genetically analysing blood samples of the Afridi Pathans of Malihabad near Lucknow which she collected earlier to confirm their Israeli origin. Ali is based in Haifa where she is working in collaboration with the prestigious Technion — Israel Institute of Technology.
‘‘Shahnaz’s research would be important if it does establish the genetic link between Pathans and Jews, as it could be seen as a scientific validation of a traditional belief about the Israelite origin of Pathans and can have interesting ramifications for Muslim-Jew relations in particular and the world at large,’’ Dr Navras Aafreedi, a researcher in Indo-Judaic studies and one of the first proponents of the common-origin theory in India, told TOI.
It is believed that the Pathan are descendants of the Ephraim tribe, one of the 10 Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel who were exiled by Assyrian invaders in 721BC. Some descendants of these lost tribes are said to have settled in India between AD1202 and AD1761, Afridi Pathans of Malihabad being one of them.
According to experts, Israel’s decision to facilitate the research could also be because of the theory supported by many that Afghanistan’s Pashtun fighters, the community from which the Taliban draw their strength, are descendants of Afridi Pathans.
‘‘Malihabad in Lucknow district is the only Pathan, or Pashtun, territory safely and easily accessible to those interested in the probable Israelite origins of Pathans. It is certainly not possible to collect DNA samples in Afghanistan or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, where most of the Pathans or Pashtuns live,’’ Aafreedi said.
India has only a sprinkling of Pathans, primarily at places like Malihabad near Lucknow and Qayamganj in Farrukhabad, predominantly of the Afridi tribe. But these were the only Pathans, said Aafreedi, who could be approached for academic purposes.
According to Aafreedi, the Afridi Pathans in India, even though they claim Israeli origin, are just as hostile and antagonistic towards Israel as Muslims anywhere else in the world.