Ayodhya verdict and the operation of grand dominant narratives

Farjana Liakat | Update:

A general view of Ayodhya city, India, on 22 October 2019. Photo: Reuters‘What about the demolition?’ the very question came across many people’s mind after the Ayodhya verdict in India. The verdict might have been successful in resolving the issue but it visibly failed to uphold justice as demolition of an establishment illegally is an offence.

The verdict left many questions unanswered. Retired Indian apex court justice AK Ganguly while speaking to the Wire asked, “If the Babri Masjid was not demolished, and Hindus went to court saying that Ram was born there, would the court order it to be demolished? The court would not have directed it.”

The Indian SC ruled that the site in Ayodhya in northern India, where Hindu mobs destroyed a 460-year-old mosque in 1992, must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, subject to conditions.

A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to Muslim groups to build a new mosque.

Let’s forget what could have happened and what not. Such world affairs are common these days. Far rights hard liners are dominant all over the world spreading and establishing their so called ‘alternative truth’, anything but truth. The rise of right wing populism is considered to be threat by many intellects, yet it is getting extremely popular around the world.

The power of such leaders lies at the very core of the respective societies. The dominant narrative, as some would like to call it, is something that functions within the society by legalising myths or post truths, have them dominate the minority or the people belonging to the counter narrative groups.

Here what we have to keep in mind is that victory and power over something are different things. In the Ayodhya verdict, India’s Hindu community had received the legitimised power over its minority groups, Muslims. One cannot call it victory of Hindus as the dominant narrative ‘Hindutva’ has been operating in their favour already. It could be a victory if the Hindu representatives had gone to the court asking for the occupation of the land without abolishing it on their own.

Any court or justice system in any country across the world could never go against the dominant narrative or the framework established by it. Only a score of Muslims or people from both communities might have died if the court passed the verdict otherwise. It is not the bias of Indian court, rather a strategic move to survive and letting survive all within the society.

Incidentally, the demolition of Babri mosque unleashed some of the worst religious riots since India's bloody partition at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, leaving around 2,000 people dead, mainly Muslims.

In 2002, 10 years after the demolition, 59 Hindu activists died in a blaze on a train from Ayodhya, riots in Gujarat state saw upwards of 1,000 people perish, again largely Muslims.

The impact of dominant narrative perpetuating in a society or a state is far reaching. It provides a mechanism to oppress the minority groups. The dominant narrative can be anything coming from any doctrine, religion, political theories or cultural rituals.

When ‘Hindutva’ comes from religious doctrine, other narratives like development, migrants outnumbering natives, or fear of ‘others’ are something coming entirely from political sphere.

We saw a popular narrative about slavery that "as elderly slaves would not get any means to run their livelihood other than slavery, slavery is good in the interest of slaves”. Another example is development. A number of political leaders in many countries holding up the power stating the desired development will never take place if the corrupt opposition party takes over the power of the country.

Dominant narratives create distrust among groups and a never-ending unrest in the society. Populist leaders inject an idea into people’s head. Those people start dreaming about having power over the other group, and become proud of themselves as the bearers of the particular idea.

The mob grows bigger.

Due to the availability of internet and social media, post truth discourse is easily spread. Alternative facts are offered mixed with hoax and distorted opinions. Populist mobs feed on that hoax.

The world already saw the spring wind and its failure. The world saw imperialism acted in the disguise of establishing democracy in a number of countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The world is also seeing how Evo Morales is ousted in the name of election rigging, while the world media is silent or may be shushed from writing how Morales, the only indigenous president of Bolivia, drew his fate by failing the interest of America and Israel.

Far right political moves, populism, post truth discourses, alternative facts, dominant narratives are all interrelated, thus serving each other’s interests triggering injustice and oppression in the society. Pure democracy can be expected but not be asked for. What we can hope is, the east wind may pass and the peace and justice restored.

*Farjana Liakat works for Prothom Alo. She can be reached at farjana.liakat@prothomalo.com

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