New Delhi: Noted
British non-fiction writer Patrick French says his research into
the genetics of the Indian caste system showed "there were traces
of Dravidian genes" in Kashmiris because people from far south
have settled there in the last 3,000 years.
"Caste can be substantiated through genetics," French said, citing
a slice of genetic history that he gathered in course of
researching his new book, "India: A Portrait", released at a
packed British Council here Wednesday evening.
The writer was in conversation with journalist Manu Joseph.
Citing another instance from his book, French said, "a report
cited that childless couples had been asking the sperm banks to
label the donations by caste".
One doctor said although potential parents knew that sperm donors
had to remain anonymous, they were often insistent and fanatical
about caste, he said.
"The couples wanted to maintain healthy blood grouping by making
sure that the biological father came from the same community as
the mother. Clinics would usually pass on this information
verbally," he added.
French said his search to find out whether caste could be genetic
led him to some bizarre and boastful websites dedicated to Indian
genetic genealogy - "a few sold caste testing kits for a lot of
money and seemed to rely on crack science".
He said an "extraordinary project" was under way at the Institute
of Genomics & Integrative Biology in north Delhi.
"A group of young scientists were attempting to unravel the
complete genetic map of India. It was an ambitious concept in a
country with over one billion inhabitants, several thousand
endogamous groups and more than 300 functioning languages," French
"The project was conceived by Samir Brahmachari, a bio-physicist.
The information they were liable to discover about the origins of
communities might have political, religious or caste
consequences," he said.
The writer said upbringing and family values also determined the
level of creative energy among various regional and linguistic
groups in India.
"I spent about 10 years in India before I thought about writing
the book. It is not a society that one can assimilate into
easily," he said.
About the mysterious murder of teenager Aarushi Talwar, French,
who knows the girl's doctor parents said, "Here were two innocent
people (dentist Rajesh Talwar and his wife Nupur Talwar) whose
lives had been disturbed by the UP (Uttar Pradesh) Police and then
by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) with implications and
allegations because nobody could solve the murder".
"Certain institutions have not been reformed in any way - the
mechanisms have not put up with the way changes have happened," he
The writer, who fell back on figures to substantiate the state of
Indian politics, even hired a statistician to tabulate the scale
of dynastic politics.
Citing figures, French said nearly two-thirds of MPs below 40 were
"hereditary", 70 percent women politicians were "hereditary" and
nine out of every 10 politicians across the spectrum had family
In a numerical study conducted by the writer and his statistician,
the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ranked first "with all its MPs being
hereditary, followed by the NCP (the Nationalist Congress Party)
and the BJD (the Biju Janata Dal)".
French, the acclaimed author of the "Liberty or Death: India's
Journey to Independence and Division" and "The World Is What It
Is: The Authorised Biography of V.S. Naipaul", has explored the
forces driving the changes in post-Independence India in his new
book with the help of charts, diagrams, examples and detailed
The book is divided into three segments, "Rashtra", "Laskhmi" and