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Homophobia – the grey shades

[I had a blog Aagan Says previously. But in a moment of emotional foolery i deleted the blog without taking backup, and posts between May-August were lost. I am going to REPOST those again. Today i post an article i had originally written for Gaylaxy magazine and later posted on my Blog in July].

When you walk down a street full of people, stare at them. Do this as an exercise. Try to deduce the ethnicity, religious identity or sexuality of a person just from the look of him/her. I am sure in most of the cases it will turn out to be rather an excruciating task. Unless of course people wore their identities on their sleeves.

A big struggle homosexuals have to encounter once they are out, is that they have to tide over the constant jeering and assessment of the society. Abuses are hurled, friends are abandoned, barbs are handed out in guise and sometimes physical harm rains on people with “alternate” sexuality.

Courtesy Slap Upside The Head

There is a class which says lack of education makes one homophobic and the “educated” citizens of urban India hardly care who is sleeping around with whom, let alone whether with the same sex or not. The vice of hatred for homosexuals emanated from small towns and villages according to many people I spoke to over the years.

This basic notion is not just flawed but fallout of inherent homophobia. The sheer indifference smells of repulsion for gays and attributing homophobia to only rural folk also signifies a shade of arrogance. The fallacy of their claim can easily be nailed by their own reactions to gays, despite “education”. Major acts of hate campaign against gays happen in educational institutions. Peers making fun, silent sufferings, biased teachers, even ostracization – homosexuals have to bear it all in institutes. Rumours of sexual life, “abnormal fetishes”, and “camaraderie” float in the air and become the most discussed gossip in no time.

In hindsight when I look back at my own life, I feel blessed I never went through any phases of homophobia against me. My friends were all the best of buddies and my sexual preferences never made any difference to them. But yes, initial days were a bit tough since some of them behaved like doubting dimwits but eventually fell in line. Post graduation was tougher, because of the huge strength of the class with students of various backgrounds, with different prejudices. While some of them reinforced the idea of homophobic society in me, some were overtly cooperative. Largely, after I came out to them, it was just a matter of fact and did not need any corroboration. But a silent rebellion was brewing inside me; a revolution to quash the unspoken (and to certain extent unintentional) homophobia inside everyone (including me).

Courtesy Google

But life is made of black and white. Largely painting people homophiles and homophobes would be a silly mistake. People need to know the person inside you to appreciate your identity apart from your sexuality. On the other hand, a cup filled to the brim spills over when loaded with more fuel. So they must also leave their inherent biases away. And charity begins at home. Liberalisation of mind can only be a reality if our upbringing reflects the same. Education and not degrees can only do that.

To quote the bard,

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

The Professor is dead – Long Live the Professor

Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, reader and chairman of Modern Indian Languages at AMU, is no more. He embarked on his journey for the heavenly abode on 7 April. Although his death is not what any other mortal would desire.
This romantic poet was found  lying on the bed in his private apartment outside the university after police broke open the door which was locked from inside. 
I suspect not many people in this nation (and abroad) knew of this 62 year old man until a month or two ago. His has been the case of bad publicity which brought him into the public domain.
Professor Siras was suspended from the university and asked to vacate his quarters in the campus on accounts of gross misconduct which was against the spirit of the institution. His crime: he was filmed by a group of students while having consensual sex with a rickshaw puller. The students had illegally planted cameras in his house and later produced the videos in front of the AMU authorities and got him evicted.
The great man was extremely dignified in accepting the charges framed against him and solemnly resigned to his fate and packed his bags off the campus.  “Let them say what they want to. I am not going to offer any clarification. You don’t have to abuse back if someone abuses you. I am already on the verge of retirement and, therefore, would rather be gone than to stretch the issue.” Was his reaction to the slander on his character.
 His resolute and spirit and faith in truth took him to the doors of justice and he filed a petition challenging the suspension order in Allahabad High Court.
It is but ironical that this crusader got the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad’s award for his 2002 collection, Grass Under My Feet.
“The poem, after which the book is named, talks of the loneliness of a man looking at the full moon, yearning for his lover. It could be called male-dominated poetry,” said Siras in an interview. “The full moon represents a gay lover: all poems are about the love of one man for another.”
A division bench comprising Justice Sunil Ambawani and Justice Kashi Nath Pandey of the Allahabad high court passed a stay order on the suspension order issued by the AMU, on 1 April. “It is constitutionally wrong to intrude into anybody’s private life or action,” said the bench of judges.
AMU authorities claimed that they had revoked the suspension order following the High court ruling and asked Dr Siras to resume work on April 5. Unfortunately he might not have been living to hear this news.
Fresh controversy has arisen over the death of Dr Siras. Although initial autopsy reports ruled out any signs of murder, internal organs have been sent for further studies to forensic laboratory in Agra. The Aligarh Muslim University Teacher’s Union has shown solidarity with the deceased in the hour of mourning. They have demanded probe into the validity of the suspension order. Also the illegal filming of sexual activity of a faculty received flak from the AMUTU. The students responsible should be brought to book, they demanded.
Dr Siras in his last days of life received support from all quarters. Gay rights groups, Human rights activists, teachers, schola
rs; intellectuals came out in his support in large numbers. Social networking sites flooded with messages and blogs showering solidarity with the “lone crusader”.
 Most students at the Aligarh Muslim University have condemned Siras’ suspension. “If they punished him according to Sharia, then they should remember that Sharia forbids anyone from peeking into someone else’s private life, so all those who made an intrusion in his life should be punished,” said a university student.
Several such messages did rounds in the web world as well the “real” world. Clearly the verdict was clear. From the well known face in the celeb world to the anonymous guy on the web, encouraging words of sympathy and support rained on Dr. Siras. He was the new mascot for gay liberty in India.
The sad demise of Professor came as a shock for people all over the world. Specially the manner in which his dead body was found. Whether he did commit suicide or was murdered, time will tell but one thing is clear. Many men, who had been the victims of prejudice against them just because of their sexuality, drew inspiration from the “slain hero”. And he will continue to live in their hearts.
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