Is Lufthansa trying to peddle an 'Aryan' theory of India?

The airline has a TV commercial saying it's 'More Indian Than You Think'. Alas, it's not that simple.

 |  2-minute read |   22-08-2016
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A two-year old Lufthansa TV commercial - called "An Indian Heart" - is suddenly making noise on social media. The advertisement shows a young boy named "Aryan" flying with his grandfather to Germany, and the duo have a sentimental education of sort on how Lufthansa, and indeed Germany itself, are "More Indian Than You Think".With a host of stereotypes being peddled at both ends - the Indian grandfather fills in his grandchild with ideas that Germans are unfriendly people with bad food, only to be soothed with a palate of Indian dishes, a hint of German friendliness by inference, what is really problematic is something more innocuous that the ad is trying to ride on.

 

The child in the ad is named "Aryan" and the tagline of the German airline says "More Indian Thank You Think".Although, the jury is still out on the efficacy of the Aryan Invasion Theory - there have been genetic debunkings, but there's no conclusive proof on either side of the raging ethno-linguistic debate, what is truly disturbing is the subtle Nazi connotation of the (much-abused) word Aryan and its definite anti-Semitic thrust in the Indo-German context.

lufthansa-ad-2014-em_082216044105.jpg A TV commercial showing a child named 'Aryan' on a German airline getting lessons in Indo-German similarity is not without connotations.  

As noted archaeologist NS Rajaram writes: "[T]he misuse of the word 'Aryan' was rooted in political propaganda aimed at appealing to local vanity. In order to understand the European misuse of the word Arya as a race, and the creation of the Aryan invasion idea, we need to go back to eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, especially to Germany. The idea has its roots in European anti-Semitism. Recent research by scholars like Poliakov, Shaffer and others has shown that the idea of the invading Aryan race can be traced to the aspirations of eighteenth and nineteenth century Europeans to give themselves an identity that was free from the taint of Judaism."

lufthansa-ad-2014-em_082216044125.jpg Is Lufthansa cashing in on the surge in Indo-Aryan theory among Hindutva-wielding Indians?

Moreover, world-renowned Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock has already castigated German Indology, as propagated by Maxmueller and others, as a "state-funded Aryanist think-tank, set up to create an Indo-German counteridentity to Semite" and therefore the scientific basis for racial anti-Semitism, which led to the Nazi gas chambers of Auschwitz and elsewhere.That a Lufthansa ad is falling back on a risible and utterly bogus idea of an Indo-German (racist) commonality, at time when Islamophobia is at its peak, although anti-Semitism towards Jewish people has declined, is extremely disturbing. However, given the rise of far-right ideologies all across Europe, America and indeed India, this rekindling of a "noble Aryan race" theory is not entirely unexpected. Lufthansa should introspect whether it should keep airing the ad or call it back.

 

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