ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Ayodhya: From Place to Space


All said and done, the recent Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme Court is basically about the concrete, physical place which was put into legal dispute by different litigants. For many, it is a closure of the dispute on the place that was rendered a controversial site. The Court seems to have defined the place by giving its possession to one section holding one particular religious faith. The judgment of the Court has also given an alternative site to another litigant belonging to another religious group. It is basically a verdict about the possession of material places. The Court’s verdict, so it could be claimed, can bring the place into its possible juridical control rescuing it from the disputants. The Court gets its purpose by adjudicating on the conflict around the possession of a place and assigning it a concrete meaning. A place also performs the important function of providing to it evidence to deliberate and decide upon the matter so as to produce justice as an outcome. However, justice as a fair outcome may not convince some completely. In fact, the judiciary finds its purpose in leaving some space for further legal persuasion.

A place begins to expand not through its physical properties, but through the space in imagination. Thus, unknown or not known places begin to acquire wings and they fly in the mental and cultural spaces, in the public imagination. When the place begins to travel through imagination, it is quite likely that it creates a mental space that then can inhabit within it explosive emotions such as hate, retribution, and revenge. Place then is converted into a kind of dynamite, which could be quite explosive. Within a particular cultural space, persons are being bombarded with certain loud-language expressions, which are not the common ways of greeting each other in public spaces. The loudness of expression in public spaces ultimately results in cultural compression of a person who would otherwise desire to hear language that is less coercive. Loudness in public expression results in silencing others’ expressions. Silencing is the ultimate result of such louder and wider assertions. It is the power and control of the place that leads to the explosion of emotions which are forced upon some people. The important question that needs to be raised is: Can the Court system and its verdict restore the space to those who require it urgently?

Today, sociocultural spaces and even mental spaces are shrinking fast. Shrinking of space eventually leads to the decimation and ghettoisation of people into their specific places, which can be fashionably called “ethnic enclaves.” A place that seeks to either confine people to its constraining logic, or where people are forced into self-confinement, tends to exist as a “refugee camp” for the dominant others who have the ambition to become superior by seeking the subordination of others. Such places get reduced effectively into the state of frozenness, cultural siege, or reification. In such a state of cultural existence, such places are less likely to experience political mobilisation that is aimed at orienting the general political mood in favour of the places that are at the receiving end of suspicion or outright social subordination.

The question that one has to raise is: What are the conditions that can save places from becoming stagnated, immobile, or reified? Or, what are the conditions that open up spaces for making places mobile and dynamic, particularly in terms of receiving wider attention from a person who is equally worthy of respect? This would definitely mark the outward journey from being a local subject to becoming a universal subject. A place, therefore, has to be recreated and needs to be grounded in change or emancipatory dynamics. Arguably, in the present case, as some have suggested, a portion of the alternative land given by the Supreme Court to the Sunni Wafq Board can possibly be used to make it a more dynamic site, for example, generating a new transformative knowledge. This place is one that will create a universal subject; a subject that will not have a wild ambition to create the other, but extending oneself to others with mutual respect and human care. One needs to expand the mental conceptual space in order to produce a universal subject. For achieving this idea, of course the place has to be liberated from being a premodern site of authenticity that involves ambitions to subordinate others.

Updated On : 22nd Nov, 2019


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