Bangalore Literature Festival 2019: Of Ayodhya verdict and majoritarianism

November 10, 2019 12:37 am | Updated 07:54 am IST - Bengaluru

Historian Mukul Kesavan speaking at Bangalore Literature Festival on Saturday.

Historian Mukul Kesavan speaking at Bangalore Literature Festival on Saturday.

The eighth edition of Bangalore Literature Festival began on Saturday amid last-minute confusion and fears that it would be cancelled in the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya and the imposition of Section 144 in the city. In the morning, the footfall was not as high, as expected, but things picked up as the day progressed.

The SC ruling became a point of discussion in several sessions. A Constitutional Bench of the apex court has permitted the construction of a temple at the site where Babri Masjid once stood and has instructed the government to provide a “prominent and suitable” five-acre plot for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya.

Historian Mukul Kesavan said the judgment, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Bill, explains how majoritarianism works. He was in conversation with American journalist and columnist Ed Luce and entrepreneur Manish Sabharwal in a session titled ‘The Remains of Liberalism’. They explored whether or not liberal democracies were in trouble and if India was moving towards an illiberal democracy thanks to majoritarianism.

Mr. Luce questioned the independence of autonomous institutions, which he said were becoming less robust. “There is no real match to majoritarianism such as the one [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi is leading today,” he said. He added that liberalism was all about having checks and balances to prevent tyranny of the majority, and not the American definition of being on the left side of the political spectrum. “Power is dispersed to independent institutions. Even if one is a minority, liberal institutional systems protect them.”

Mr. Keshavan spoke about how words such as “pseudo-secular” and “anti-national” were increasingly becoming part of the lexicon. “What they have done superbly is to invert the vocabulary of liberalism and made it pejorative. Now we are at a stage in which the State actually creates a structure by which it certifies citizenship and creates a political circumstance where you could actually nominate a third category of people,” he said, adding that there was an absence of a pan-Indian liberal vision for the country.

In another session, ‘Making Sense of Trump’, Mr. Luce, who was in conversation with writer Keshava Guha, commented on the difference between the Modi and Trump governments. “I think the media in America is still very strongly independent and NGOs are thriving. I don’t see quite the same threat to the American liberal democracy as I see to the Indian liberal democracy. I would suggest that in terms of number of people affected, I think Narendra Modi is a much bigger threat globally to liberal democracy than Donald Trump,” he said.

(With inputs from Karishma Rao)

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.