Not just about spreading awareness

Ashish became the centre of attraction in a Delhi Metro heading towards the Barakhamba station,  after he received a call on his phone from his friends who were inquiring about his whereabouts.

“I am going to the ‘pride parade’. Some of my friends will be there,” announced Ashish to his friend on the phone while fellow passengers had their eyes transfixed on his large appearance. His tone was more of a declaration. Moments later, the 24-year-old teacher was overwhelmed and surprised to witness what seemed like a sea of people who had come to participate in the Delhi Queer Pride.

“Few years back, there used to be 30-40 people in the Pride Parades. This gathering is no less than an achievement,” said Ashish adding that even though he is ‘straight’ it hasn’t stopped him from “showing support to a people who are deemed to be criminal just because of their sexual orientation”.

He however believes that times are changing. “My own parents were against me going to such parades. Now when I tell them I am going to the Queer Pride Parade to extend my solidarity, they are absolutely fine with it,” said Ashish, his attention diverted to a group of 15-year-old students of Tagore International School, dressed in their school uniform on a Sunday afternoon, who had come to support the ‘movement’.
“We have formed a group in our school which is responsible to make other
students aware of LGBT rights,” said Partho.

For the organisers of the parade, the event is aimed at “more than spreading awareness” owing to the fact that the Supreme Court in its December 2013 judgement upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that makes homosexuality a punishable offence. 

Terming the judgment as a temporary setback, Gautam Bhan, organiser of the parade said the large crowd “shows the resilience the community has beyond any single judgement of the court”.

“As long as there is a community that can mobilise around discrimination we will keep getting in way of that law. The real battle is that the LGBT people can live their everyday lives without facing discrimination and violence in their schools, their families and their workplaces,” said 34-year-old Bhan.

“Even with the new regime we have not seen an overt partisan discrimination so far, and I am happy for that. But I have to say we are worried and it’s not only the LGBT people who are worried. The arguments around ‘Love Jihad’, moral policing are not just arguments that apply to a set of people. What it means is the lesser freedom that all Indians are supposed to accept,” he added.

Thirty-year-old Manak Matyani, another organiser shared similar views. “There is a climate of clampdown on sexual minorities and sexuality itself. We demand an end to this culture of repression and that the LGBT community be given its due rights,” he said.
However the rest of the evening was marked with sloganeering against Section 377 and love songs. Rudrani Chetri, a transgender, said that she had come to celebrate who she was and urged “people to change their mindsets”.

Later in the evening, when poets, singers, musicians and dancers shared a makeshift stage at Jantar Mantar to entertain a roaring crowd, Agrima Bhasin, a researcher, struggled to convince a 65-year-old Balbir Singh about changing his views about the LGBT community. Singh who had come to protest against ‘cow slaughter’ was heard saying, “Naak katwaney waley kaam mat karo, desh ki sanskriti ka sawaal hai,” (don’t participate in humiliating acts. It’s about our nation’s pride).”

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