Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Scientific basis for a 200-year-old hypothesis: Roma, the Gypsy population of Europe, have Indian connection with their ancestors migrating out of India about 1400 years ago

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Roma, the Gypsy population of Europe, have Indian
connection with their ancestors migrating out of India about 1400
years ago.

In the first-ever scientific study, backing the Indian origin of the
Roma people, scientists from around the world including from the
city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have
analysed the Y chromosome samples of over 10,000 men to establish the
genetic signatures of ancestor Indians in the Gypsy population.

The origin and migration of Roma has been curious among people across
the world.

Although the linguistic and genetic studies on European Roma have
traced to Eurasia, the exact parental population group and time of
dispersal has remained disputed. The international team led by Dr
Kumarasamy Thangaraj from the CCMB traced the founder of the European
Roma using the Y chromosome genetic signatures.

At present, there is no archaeological evidence about the Roma origin.
Even the historical documentation of the Roma is scanty. Y chromosome
is inherited from father to son; to grandson. Therefore, all the males
of a family or a population evolved from a single founder male will
possess the same Y chromosome. Based on the genetic signatures that
exist on the Y chromosome, every male could be assigned to a specific
group (haplogroup), hence the paternal lineage can be traced, using
these signatures.

In this study, Dr Thangaraj and his team screened about 10,000 males
from around the world, including 7000 males belonging to 205 ethnic
populations of India, to discern a more precise ancestral source of
European Roma  population.

“We have compared the worldwide phylogeographical data, for Indian
H1a1a haplotypes with Roma and concluded that the aboriginal scheduled
tribes and scheduled caste populations of northwestern India,
traditionally referred as the Doma and also known as
‘Dalits’, are the most likely ancestral populations of modern European
Roma”, said Dr Thangaraj.

This study also estimated that the exile time of Roma founders from
India as about 1405 years ago. Dr Ch Mohan Rao, Director, CCMB, said
“modern methods such as SNP analysis, DNA sequencing and microarray
studies have made it easy to trace populations.
The present study provides DNA based evidence that support the idea
that north-western part of India might be the original place for
“Roma” populations”.

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