01, Feb 2018 | Harish Iyer
75 years ago, we fought the Brits with all our grit, when we screamed “Bharat Chhodo” at Gowlia Tank in Mumbai’s Grant Road area. To borrow from the Tryst with Destiny speech by Jawarharlal Nehru on the eve of our first Independence Day
Now, time has come to redeem our pledge, and to work towards the large cause of humanity.
We are not free today, when the lives of ordinary citizens are under the radar of a draconian Victorian law that even the British discarded after realising that it was against the tenets of equality. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a bane, is a sin and more importantly this law, is what is against the law of nature.
Love is the law of nature.
Thank our ancient Indian wisdom for small mercies. It has never ever been illegal to be non-cis gendered or non-heterosexual in India. It is only illegal to have any sex that is not peno-vaginal under the colonial section 377. We have enough reason to bloat our chest with pride to strongly state that it is un-Indian to hate and to discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality. The ones who stand against homosexuality are the ones who are against Indian culture. In fact, not just Indian culture, they are against Hindu culture as well.
It is not in our culture to discriminate, but to imbibe the best of all cultures in our own. However, we have also absorbed the filth of the British by adopting section 377 that serves as weapon for people who wish to extort, molest and rape queer persons using the fear of the law. The Humsafar Trust receives many such complaints and so do activists across the nation. When you have a discriminating law, you hand over the ammunition to oppressors who wish to take advantage of the inequality, that ends up making the queer Indian vulnerable.
When we speak of vulnerability, we need to be aware of the fact that India is a diverse country. People who are disabled, non-Hindu, non-Hindi belt, non Brahmin are already victimised by social hegemony. Enough blood has been spilled on Indian soil to ascertain that makes it fertile for the growth of hate. So, if you queer, disabled, belong to the lower income group, a woman, a trans-person, a Muslim or a Dalit, you are among the most vulnerable in this nation. Add beef to the dinner plate, and you will have the perfect recipe for disaster. There have been Muslims who were burnt alive in this country, upper caste men offering progressively increasing bounties to chop women’s noses, behead them or rape them. There have been enough human lives at stake over alleged bos indicus beef stakes. Add a pinch of non-cis-gender and non-heterosexual orientation to this whole mix that we are born into, and this would begin to explain, at least in part, the reasons behind India’s suicide epidemic.
Our gender and our sexuality form the entirety of who we are. And so do families that we are born into, or faiths that we choose to adopt. The more non-mainstream, non-Hindu-Brahmin-cis-gendered we confirm our truths to be, we go down the ranks of privilege and up in the quotient of vulnerability.
Our sexuality, our gender identity and expression, and the truth of the families and cultures that we are born into, are always intermingling. Some of us are privileged in one, and vulnerable in another facet of our lives. But some of us are vulnerable in all, and stand a chance to be bullied into silence, sometimes forever, by the forces of the majority.
This time, while we walk the Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride Parade, without losing focus on gender and sexuality, we need to also remember the cross-sectionality of our various intermingling-truths. As we raise our rainbow flags, let’s understand that there are colours beyond the colours that we see, that will be visible only when we remove the tinted glasses of privilege. Let’s not be oblivious to the truth of discrimination that gets exacerbated with every new minority category you belong to. Let’s rise together, and for each other. Because we will not go high even with queer rights, if the burden of some of our truths weighs us down. There is no justice for some of us, till there is justice for all of us.
Feature Image courtesy Judhajit Bagchi