Navras came to this conclusion after three years of extensive research titled "The Indian Jewry and the Self-Professed 'Lost Tribes of Israel' in India", for which Lucknow University has also awarded him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History. Navras, who himself belongs to Malihabad, started working on this research project in November 2002, under the supervision of the head of Medieval & Modern History Department, Prof. V. D. Pandey.
"It is an effort to trace my own roots," says Navras, as he narrated how he went through the entire study, spending hours in History books, searching for facts and clues, which could help in his research. "I was all of 12, when my uncle first told me that our family could be having a Jewish lineage," he said. He decided at that very moment that one day he would explore the truth. Navras formed a team with Prof. Tudor Parfitt, Chairman of the Centre of Near and Middle East Studies and Director of the Centre of Jewish Studies, SOAS, London University and Dr. Yulia Egorova, a linguist and historian from Russia. They went to Malihabad, where they collected DNA samples of Afridi Pathans in order to confirm their putative Israeli descent.
Significantly, during the course of the study, the team interviewed hundreds of Afridi Pathans in Malihabad and learnt that most of them were ignorant of their Israeli descent.Navras explained that when Afridi Pathans came to Malihabad they did not disclose their Jewish lineage due to the fear of being isolated in the pre-dominantly non-Pathan Muslim society. As a result, the word was not passed to the coming generations and subsequently, they were left ignorant of the historical fact. "Few of the illustrious Afridi Pathans India has seen, are the third President of India Dr. Zakir Husain, the great Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi and Ghaus Mohammad Khan, the first Indian to reach the Wimbledon quarter finals in 1939," he said.
Navras also went to Aligarh along with Dr. Yesudian Storfjell, SOAS, London, and visited the Mohalla Bani Israilan and interviewed the District Qazi of Aligarh, Muhammad Ajmal, who was not shy of admitting that he belonged to the clan of Bani Israel there, which is believed to have descended from a Jewish sahabi (companion of Prophet Mohammad), and came to India to spread the message of Islam around one-thousand years ago.
He also took part in discussions with Prof. Jay Waronker, School of Architecture, North Dakota State University, authority on Indian synagogues, and Dr. Shalva Weil, an anthropologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of India's Jewish Heritage. In March this year, he also did an assignment for a London University project, titled "Representation of Jews, Zionism and Israel in Pakistani and Indian Muslim Discourse", funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Board, UK.
Saturday, 31 March 2007
Tracing Jewish Links in Malihabad
Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi at his Ph.D. convocation at Lucknow University, India
Times News Network, The Times of India, Lucknow, August 10, 2005
Lucknow: DNA tests of 50 paternally-unrelated Afridi Pathan males of Malihabad are being conducted at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University. The results of which are expected to be here soon and will come handy in deciding whether they have an Israeli lineage or not. However, Navras Jaat Aafreedi, a research scholar at Lucknow University strongly believes that these Afridi Pathans, who had come from the Khyber tribe of the North West Frontier, now in Pakistan, have a Jewish lineage.