What is it about the NY Times that makes perfectly rational, intelligent people produce little more than misrepresentations and grotesque caricatures when they write about India?
I've always had a reasonable amount of respect for Ramachandra Guha. I read India After Gandhi a couple of months back and thought it was interesting and insightful; not quite as objective a historical account as I might have hoped for (and to his credit, Guha acknowledges this in his introduction), but a book I would recommend to a friend.
Except then he goes and produces this piece of blithering idiocy for the NYT. Never mind the stereotyping (all Punjabi landlords are crooks who steal electricity from their tenants in order to fill their Swiss bank accounts), or the exaggeration (you have to go to America and hang out with Pakistanis if you want to meet a Muslim), and let's not even start on how Guha's idiotic paranoia, or his dreams about his Pakistani friend, are at all relevant here. What makes this piece ridiculous is the implication that the BJP and the forces of communalism get their primary support from rich Punjabi immigrants looking to overcome their insecurities about the future. Ya, right. Because Delhi has always been a stronghold of the BJP. Because all the people attacking the Babri Masjid or rioting in Gujarat were clearly fat Punjabi landlords. Because unemployment, lack of economic opportunity for young people and the feelings of insecurity and emasculation those produce are not what Hindutva is designed to channel, directing the frustration and inadequacy of upper class youth against a convenient Other - no, no, not at all! it's successful landlords with Swiss bank accounts who are really frustrated and insecure. Sheesh.
If an American journalist had lived in India for 6 months and written this I would have considered it sloppy. Coming from Guha, it is criminally obtuse. He might as well have added a paragraph about how the VHP is actually a group of unemployed fakirs who've forgotten how to do the rope trick and are taking their frustration out on innocent Muslims. Oh, wait, that must be next year's August 15th 'thought piece'.