The land of the five rivers is on the verge of desertification, says Navtej Sarna

Arvind Kejriwal was recently interviewed by three anchors on a discussion platform regarding his party’s political aspirations in Punjab. The first questioner wondered how he could handle a state which was all about gidda, bhangra and butter chicken. The second interviewer, sensing this to be a good tack, questioned Kejriwal’s chances as he was not a non-vegetarian, did not take a peg—as she put it—and did not perform bhangra.

Kejriwal’s responses, however scintillating, need not detain us here, but the lazy intellectual framework of the questions deserves a moment. Every profession is entitled to its lazy quota but when prime time TV rolls out unchecked stereotypes into millions of living rooms, the damage can be greater. A little digging on Google would have thrown up the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16 which shows that Punjab ranks the lowest in meat-eating across India with only four per cent of the women and 10 per cent of the men consuming any meat even once a week; corresponding figures for Kerala are in the nineties. It might have helped convince the anchors that all Punjabis are not in a permanent bhangra frenzy, with a Patiala peg in one hand and a chicken leg in the other.

What saddens me is that Punjab has brought this upon itself. If proof were needed of that, it was provided by the current chief minister himself on the same platform the next day. He ascended the stage performing bhangra moves accompanied by four dancers in full dance regalia; being consistent, he departed in the same manner. After that how does one blame any interviewer for rubbing in stereotypes?


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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