The fourth round of excavations at Keezhadi, near Madurai, in Tamil Nadu have turned up a wealth of information. The findings suggested an urbanised civilisation along the Vaigai that was contemporaneous with urbanised settlements on the gangetic plain. The Sangam era settlement was found to be older than previously thought, dating back to the 6th century BCE, with the age of Tamil brahmi too being pushed back a century. Researchers said that the findings indicated a prosperous, literate society which had textile, weaving and pot-making industries. At the end of four rounds of excavations, the researchers said no objects of worship had been found.
The excavations at Keezhadi have run into their share of controversies. The first three rounds of excavations were undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India. After the Superintending Archaeologist, who led the first two rounds was transferred, some in Tamil Nadu accused the BJP-led central government of trying to slow down the work lest the site suggest a secular civilisation. The fourth round was led by the State Archaeological Department. Only after the report on the fourth round was released by the state did the Centre release the reports on the first three rounds to the Tamil Nadu government.
Politics and prejudice, however, must be set aside in the cause of learning more about our history and journey as human beings. Politicising historical materials —and prematurely at that—is dangerous and limiting. It undermines the remarkable journeys that we have made as humans. The story of humans, as it is being pieced together through science, is one of migration, enterprise and change. Everyone of us—Indian or otherwise—is a mixture of DNA that speaks to diversity and distance. Trying to force that story to fit modern politics of anti-immigration policies, and who-came-first is a fool’s errand that betrays our common humanity.