‘Caste will not just go away with modernity’-This was one of the main thoughts emerged during the panel discussion on the book ‘Caste in contemporary India’ authored by Surinder S .Jodhka and Published by Routledge India. The book discussion was organised on 23rd February by Centre for regional studies, School of Social Sciences.

Dr.Arvind S.Susarla, Head, Centre for regional studies, introduced the book and the author to the audience. Prof.Sasheej Hedge, Department of Sociology, Dr. P. Thirumal, Department of Communication and Dr. K. Sathyanarayana, Department of Cultural studies-EFLU shared their thoughts on the book. Author of the book Prof. Surinder S .Jodhka, Centre for study of social systems-JNU, replied to the criticisms and queries raised by the discussants and the audience.

The book, which mainly focuses on the caste issues in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, identifies three important moments in the understanding of caste. They are caste as tradition, caste as power and caste as humiliation. All the panel members unanimously agreed that the book identifies ‘caste as humiliation’ as the cementing factor of inequality.

Sharing his comments on the book, Prof. Sasheej Hedge said that study of caste requires a new vocabulary and new evidences should be incorporated in to the existing theories to make it more relevant. He also mentioned that capacity to aspire is an important factor that needs to be addressed while studying caste. He also raised the criticism that most often caste is seen as a cause rather than a consequence.

Dr. Thirumal congratulated the author for putting together complex issues ranging from socio political factors to philosophical aspects in a single book. He said that caste has been more political than philosophical in post-independent India.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. Sathyanarayana remembered his early association with the author. He pointed out that capitalism cannot annihilate caste system and caste is reinventing itself with the modernity. He also noted that caste remains an empirical reality.

All the discussants raised the criticism that even while the book is exciting in many aspects, it still tries to restrict itself in the existing paradigms of sociology of caste.

Replying to the comments and criticisms, author Surinder S. Jodhka said that ‘a critical sociology of caste’ is the need of the hour. He pointed out that proof is needed to prove the existence of caste when speaking to people who don’t understand the reality of caste. He said that the mainstream view point in India is that caste system will vanish with modernity. He argued that this view point is wrong. He said that neoliberal policies alone cannot liberate Dalits from caste issues.

By Joyel K.Pious, MA-Communication