Over the last week I have engaged in multiple conversations over the Ayodhya verdict. Everyone has an opinion (the dhobi-mark of an active citizen one could suppose), and most have no direct stakes in the verdict. Of course, the nature of being a south delhi-thinktank employee-somewhat left liberal is that most political conversations are flat "people-like-us" debates. Concerns over faith-based claim being converted to a legal right, concerns on implications on Indian jurisprudence and Indian secularism. Each conversation was much like an Indian Express Op-Ed - what "we" hoped for and what "we" abhor. One of the Express columns today even told us why we should care. We guard our notions of secularism with careful words, measured headlines and an emphatic shake of the head.
Over time I have learnt to box people. The stereotypes help. Those I have political conversations with because I know we all agree and claim believe in the same values. We generally sit comfortably left-of-centre. Then there are others, those I meet occasionally and I have learnt to assiduously avoid conversations on secularism, Gujarat and other such matters.
Then the other day I had to step out of my comfort circle to meet the latest on the block of nouveau secularists over beer. This new lot is a creation of the Ayodhya verdict, I claim. 'It's a good verdict," he exclaimed. 'Fair and Just. They recognised that this is Ram's birthplace and also gave a share to the Muslims." Of course, we're the good Hindus. We recognise the demands a secular state makes on us. And so we part charitably with our share. Another comment on facebook caught my attention: "Ram was our forefather...not only to Hindus but all Indians. The verdict brings together all Indians." I cringe and I distance myself.
I might recognise that I impose my qualificatory lable of being a 'liberal secularist' or some such -ism to my political and social interactions. Maybe closing out conversations or dismissing other opinions is being equally conservative.
It's interesting to observe how flashpoints such as the Ayodhya verdict not only play out in the media and mainstream politics, but our political conversations. How socialisations and stereotypes converge and reconverge. It's like the game of four corners we used to play at birthdays - the horses, fishes, frogs and monkeys occupy one corner each. Everyone has to scramble away from the middle to occupy one corner. What about those left undecided? Well, they're "out."
Buy my soft drink
4 years ago