Do you see caste as something that ought to be eliminated at all?
No, I don’t see it as something that ought to be eliminated. I don’t believe in ‘ought to’s very often, you see. (Laughs)
I think it’s something which a lot of people feel ought to be, because they feel offended by it, they feel it’s primitive, it gives India a bad name and that sort of thing. I think it ought to be allowed to die a natural death, you know, which it will do, eventually.
And I absolutely believe that crimes on the basis of caste should be eliminated and strictly punished. I think the practice of untouchability in any form is one example. Attacking a community because a girl wants to marry outside into your community is obviously outrageous and should certainly be strictly punished.
But I don’t think you should go out and say you’re not allowed to vote for a Yadav politician because you’re a Yadav, or that a Yadav politician shouldn’t be allowed to say, “I’m a Yadav, so vote for me”, you know.
In a section of the book, you quote the activist Chandrabhan saying English can help eliminate caste differences. But since the word ‘caste’ itself has a Latin origin, don’t you think the idea of language as the tool to wipe out caste is problematic?
Well, yes, I wouldn’t agree with my friend Chandrabhan on that one myself. The majority of the poor of India, of all castes, speak in Indian languages, their mother tongues, and I think they should all stand together and continue to speak their mother tongues. I don’t agree with Chandrabhan that Hindi is the language of Brahmins or anything like that.
Image: An Indian Dalit protester holding a placard, demonstrates outside Durban's International Convention Center, the venue of the World Conference Against Racism, 6th September 2001.