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.
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 said.
"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 said.
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 political links.
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 research.
The book is divided into three segments, "Rashtra", "Laskhmi" and "Samaj".