Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
On the morning of 11 December 2013, I woke up with a hope that history will take a new course that morning. Excited and charged up for a celebration, I stared animatedly at my Twitter feed, waiting for the news to break. Two tweets appeared on my TL back to back. The fact did not sink in. By 10:45, i was unable to read my Twitter feed, eyes moist with tears. From a respected citizen of India, who in his smallest capacity had been contributing to the cause of nation-building, was now a criminal! Supreme Court had recriminalised Section 377, finding no “constitutional infirmity” in the draconian law.
What I was not anticipating was the huge outpouring of support for equal rights movement for gays and outrage against the irrational and incompetent (with shades of homophobia) verdict of the Supreme Court. Unlike 2009, when the landmark judgment of Retd Justice AP Shah was jeered, the queer taunted, and supporters of gay rights mocked on and off social media, for the last three days, the extent of support has been overwhelming, to say the least.
Justice Singhvi, who delivered the regressive judgment annulling July 2 2009 verdict by the Delhi High Court, hid behind a slew of procedural walls, which he himself chose to demolish in the past, when he bypassed the legislature and executive to frame public policy for telecom in the aftermath of the 2G scam. The judge who takes the liberty of unsettling the balance between the three wings of government in fiscal matters, giving the excuse that it is the legislature’s job to make amends to laws, is downright hypocritical.
The judiciary is the custodian of human rights, and has the mandate to make decisions in the interest of the public. But Justice Singhvi thinks annulling Section 377 of the IPC for a “miniscule minority” in improper. Well, Justice Singhvi needs to be reminded that any minority, no matter how miniscule needs to be protected and their rights secured – the Constitution of India warrants that.
Interpretation of statutes is another mandate of the judiciary in case of conflicts. By declaring that the Section 377 suffers from no Constitutional infirmity, the Supreme Court has put its stamp of approval on treatment of about 100 million (figures stated by top media houses) citizens of the country as criminals. A law drafted in 1860, to preserve the Anglo-Christian morality, got a thumbs up from the supreme judiciary in India in 2013!
Away from the legal debate, a social debate was raging on social media platforms. The army of homophobes were out in full force, led by the Commanders Subramanian Swamy and Ramdev, who deserve Nobel prizes in Medicine for the absurd claims they made regarding homosexuality, without bothering to provide even a shred of credible evidence. Three years back I would have engaged in Twitter battles with these dolts, arguing my case from Biological, social and psychological points of view.
However, my patience has thinned in the last 5 years of handling Internet Hindus, and I didn’t want to waste my energy on them. Fighting the Supreme Court is more important at this juncture. All those who are interested to read about the Scientific evidence that homosexuality is NOT an aberration, fully natural, genetic and hereditary, please do read my blogs on the subject (published in Gaylaxy).
A battle lies ahead. India is in need of a Stonewall moment. The LGBT community has never felt more galvanised. The entire media has thrown its weight behind us. There’s no stopping or looking back. 2009 empowered us. The SC setback has strengthened our resolve. Ladke LenGAY Hindustan.
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Own Copyrights
Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
For the last few months, one man has ruled our television sets and reached out to people across cities in India. Baburao Hazare popularly known as Anna has changed the course of political protests in modern Indian history. Suddenly, the urban youth, perceived as selfish and indifferent, came out to support this phenomenon. We can always debate the merits of the movement led by Mr Hazare, but we cannot take away from him the credit of revolutionizing the concept of protests.
As a member of the LGBT community, I was rather amused at the events that unfolded throughout August. Keeping aside political beliefs and the cause for which Anna stood, I definitely salute him for the mass frenzy that he created. Also, it intrigued me, could we as a community not emulate Hazare to dispel the social ostracization that we face? To this effect I jotted down the following lessons we could learn from the massive outpouring of emotions in favor of Anna Hazare:
Undoubtedly, media played the most important role in creating brand Anna. With 24X7 electronic media virtually filling in for a PR medium and the constant updates on social media Team Anna made sure people are kept abreast about their actions whether or not they wanted to.
LGBT community (or the “elite” section of it) has an effective presence on social media. From groups on Facebook to accounts on Twitter, almost every NGO working for the queer can be found on the web world. India already has several online magazines with a massive reader base. Social media platforms are well used by the community. But the target audience is rather limited. Except for community members, hardly anyone is deeply involved with these pages (unless they are connected to the movement). For that matter, for many community members, online media begins and ends with socializing and dating sites.
A few days back I was watching this video on YouTube where employees at
Pixar were telling their coming out stories. Why can our community not promote more such videos and views in the mainstream? If the people are unwilling to lend an ear, why can’t we scream them out of slumber?
The engagement of the queer community with mainstream electronic media is also limited to specific days like July 2. If a public opinion has to be built up, media has to be used to its optimum. I feel we are lacking to that effect.
Unity in Diversity
The divisions within the LGBT community are not unknown to any. The “manly” guys look down upon the pansies, transgenders and bisexuals are untouchables, like the mainstream society lesbian females are neglected in the queer society! Lest we forget, “Voices against 377” brought together over thirty NGOs under one umbrella. Such a unity is normally hard to come by. Here too, we have a lot to learn from Team Anna.
India Against Corruption was a motley of several NGOs bordering from the ultra left to the reactionary right. Ideological differences forgotten, they came together to fight a cause which they thought was necessary – Jan Lokpal Bill. Even in the core group, there were elements that were allegedly close to the government and some who were explicitly unwavering to any proposal that came from the enemy ranks. Maintaining such a coalition is a arduous task, which was well supported by the image that Brand Anna enjoyed among the public.
Does the battle for social and legal equality of gays have a face? Think of Nepal – Sunil Pant, who also happens to be a member of parliament – represents the queer community. In India, we lack that. Instead we have a health minister who compares homosexuality to a disease bred from foreign shores. Even if we can come up with a face, can we make a show of our strength and unity?
Political & Celebrity Support
A huge cause of the apparent success of Team Anna was the constant support it received from a large section of the Bollywood celebrities, Page 3 socialites, and of course a section of the anti ruling party politicians. That immensely helped in mobilizing the campaign for the JLP. Anupam Kher, Chetan Bhagat, Arindam Chowdhury, Shekhar Kapoor had virtually become the spokespersons of the “Democratic Party of Anna”. The Ram Leela stage was used by and large by almost anyone who had a mission to fulfill – whether it was Amir Khan or Ashoke Pandit.
The queer community does enjoy the backing of several social icons. Filmmaker Onir is himself a part of the community and has been rather active on the social sphere to promote the cause we wish to champion. That apart, celebrities like Celina Jaitley have always rendered their support whenever necessary. People like Rituporno Ghosh who enjoy a cult status in Bengal have risen over salacious gossip and inane criticism for sexuality and shown the world that he stands for what he is.
But sadly on the political front, the gay community lags far behind the Anna phenomenon. Although the last Bangalore Pride Celebrations had the blessings of Janata Dal (S), and the Left parties have always “spoken” of their support to the cause of LGBT (more from their theoretical and ideological point of view and less in practicality), most national or regional political parties go tightlipped on the issue of a legal sanction of same sex marriages. In this era of vote bank politics, hope a feeling of “Sadbhavana” brings together right thinking people together to deliver justice to the community.
The Team Anna has been (and quite fairly) accused of obstinacy from many quarters. Refusing to budge from their position, they harped on passing the Jan Lokpal Bill (although several flaws in the legislation had been pointed out by many noted lawyers and constitutional experts; but that can be settled in some other article). And even after the temporary truce with the unanimous resolution passed by Indian parliament, Anna has queered the pitch for passage of ONLY his team’s version of the Bill sans amendments. His no show at Mumbai triggered a retreat, but he has again started hogging limelight with this letter to the PM and vow to campaign against Congress in states going to polls.
Should the queer community emulate him? Should we hold the whole system at ransom to get our demands passed? A legislation decriminalizing article 377 and guaranteeing legal status to same sex marriages is long pending. Is the community’s patience not thinning away? After all, United Nations has recognized LGBT rights as human rights and India is a signatory nation.
Shall Ramleela witness more leela after the highest court of the nation passes its verdict on the judgment delivered by Justice A P Shah on July 2, 2009? Time will tell.
P.S. – If nothing works, we can slap and flog people into accepting us as parts of mainstream. 🙂
Disclaimer – This article was written and published in Gaylaxy magazine.