Reintroducing Mediation to Millennial India: Part II

Jonathan’s previous article set out solutions to awaken interest and the widespread application of mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism in India, focusing on restructuring and reintroducing mediation practices on a legislative and institutional level. Part two looks at branding and marketing of mediation in India.

ReBranding and ReMarketing Mediation in Millennial India

Mediation requires an entirely different branding approach—away from being a charitable amenity in court, towards becoming a commercially viable service. This generation can’t afford its time and money on courtroom services. The modern era demands time-efficient, cost-effective, and stress-free services, which makes mediation a preferable option for resolving disputes—but at the moment, it’s rarely even considered. Mediation hasn’t appealed to the millions of languishing litigators, and that’s probably because we have the wrong brand ambassadors promoting mediation.  

A year ago, India was embroiled in a controversy surrounding the movie ‘Padmaavat’, where the depiction of the lead female character—Rani Padmavati—in the movie had angered certain sections of the Rajput community in northern India. In the midst of this socio-politico imbroglio, that saw violent protests, causing damage to public property and loss of lives, a national news agency reported the story of a self-proclaimed mediator. Upon watching the movie, and much to the horror of allegedly victimised community, this mediator walked out of the theatre, saying, “Alauddin Khilji has been portrayed in the manner he should have been portrayed”.

The self-proclaimed mediator went on to fuel further conflict by calling the movie a victory for the Rajput community—a statement which could have easily antagonised the Islamic community in India, which had so far stayed away from the controversy. This person’s lack of mediation professionalism didn’t end there, as he was quoted praising the violent protests and stating that these acts were essential in negotiating a proper depiction of the Rajput character in the movie. While in this instance, the person wasn’t mediating and was a private citizen, he was reported in the national media as a ‘mediator’, meaning his views were conflated with and damaging to the mediation profession.  In this case, his actions were scandalous, as he had torn down three pillars of mediation—he lost his neutrality by taking a side, destroyed confidentiality by revealing any discussion that might have happened in the theatre after the movie, crossed the line of party autonomy and turned into an arbitrator by passing a judgment. What do you think the readers would make of who a mediator is?

Another example of mediation in India receiving negative branding was the Supreme Court of India’s appointment of a religious leader as a supposed neutral in the Ayodhya mediation case. The half-a-century-old communal conflict revolving around a disputed prayer house in northern India, claimed by both Hindus and Muslims, was finally referred to mediation in April 2019. Much to the surprise of many, the apex court appointed a Hindu religious leader as a mediator—someone who had an explicitly compromised position, having publicly stated that the religious site belonged to the Hindus. A national newspaper reported him as hinting at war and violence if the Muslim community didn’t give up possession and ownership of the place. Once again, my question is simple—what impression does such a biased ‘mediator’ leave on the minds of the common folk?

Solution: The authentic success stories of mediation haven’t reached the ears of the billion people of this country, and this is our biggest failure as promoters of mediation in India. We need to fin