January 23, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether depoliticising the pride parade in Mumbai is the right move. We also look at the investments secured by Telangana in Davos, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Depoliticising Pride Parade In Mumbai: The Right Move?
This year, we have the Color Positive Foundation (CPF) organising Mumbai’s Pride March on 28th January. Soon after this announcement, the foundation released a bunch of qualifications for participating in the parade. It has disallowed all forms of posters and expressions that do not target legal barriers of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Indian queer community is outraged, to put it delicately. Many have criticised the foundation’s attempt at depoliticising the pride parade when queerness in India in itself is political. This clash of opinions has opened up a cardinal debate about the aims and objectives of a pride parade.
On one side, we have the CPF advocating for a sanitised pride movement, while some from the queer community disagree with this mandate because it is being perceived as an antithesis of the objectives India’s pride parades seek to achieve. While the debate over which way this balance of interests must tip rages on, let’s look at its significance in India.
The roots of the pride movement lie in protest and intersectional identities. Lesbians and trans women of colour led the LGBT resistance against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn, New York. In India, the story of public resistance can be traced back to 15 gay men clad in yellow t-shirts striding along Kolkata’s streets. Their objective? To sensitise organisations like the Human Rights Commission on the issues that afflict the LGBT in India.
The queer community, on the whole, faces a multi-headed discriminatory apparatus – from forced self-censoring to online hatemongering and threats. Police harassment and violence against the community are a pervasive problem, so much so that the Supreme Court directed each state’s Police Officers’ Conduct Rules to legally command against violence and harassment of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Four years after the SC struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, plenty of hurdles remain calcified in the country’s legal order. For instance, India, presently, does not treat queer and heterosexual couples equally: it does not recognise same-sex marriage and the former’s right to adoption and inheritance.
Apart from this, conversion therapy is still rampant in India in various forms, through medical loopholes and the legal code allowing it as a “corrective” measure for rape. A massive case of legal discrimination is that the penalty for all physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual assaults against trans people is capped at two years and a fine.
By surveying CPF’s Pride March posts and promotions, we found that the organisation has decided to stringently ban “political posters”. Posters against religious communities, right-wing organisations, political parties, or supporters of the BJP (colloquially called bhakts) are a no-go.
Since the pride movement is largely leftist, parades have often been a space for expressing dissent against parties in power, religious orthodoxy, and institutional and societal violence. But the CPF is not alone in subduing this face of the parade.
In 2020, one of the original organisers of pride parades in Mumbai, Queer Azadi Mumbai, had requested participants to refrain from political sloganeering. When support for activist Sharjeel Imam was voiced, sedition charges followed, and QAM passed the buck onto the protestors. It is true organisers of Pride marches have to deal with a lot, the most important concern being ensuring the security of its participants.
VIEW: Parochial focus on legal issues will effect change
The CPF’s chief argument is that political sloganeering, critiquing the right wing, and extending solidarity to other causes during pride parades focus attention away from the LGBTQIA+ community. The march for queer rights and dissent against repression loses its gravity and urgency when paired with issues that the GOI might perceive as controversial.
In India, the widely known 377 ruling has not ushered an appropriate amendment of discriminatory legislation, and the queer community continues to be stigmatised. Consolidating a streamlined focus on LGBTQIA+ concerns is expected to deliver a stronger message to the powers that be for safeguarding the minority community’s rights.
The argument in favour of depoliticisation looks at the short-term benefits the community might derive from political appeasement. Permissions and donations would be easier to get, and it might actually help broaden the spectrum of supporters for the queer community.
The queer community has historically almost always been at odds with the right wing due to the latter’s public dehumanisation of queer people. However, the RSS’ recent softened stance on the queer community could be worth milking towards building a space for diverse political commingling.
Safety is a cause of concern for any public display of dissent. The past few years are a testament to the expediency with which peaceful protestors may be charged with sedition or terrorism. It is also in the organiser’s interests that the march not be disrupted by political opportunism by external actors who spread hatred against the queer community due to its political alignment with the left.
Advocates of this view generally argue that pride parades are supposed to be fun. Celebrating the joys and struggles of the community is, as they say, itself political. Their over-politicisation by other interest groups, organisations, political parties, and public figures may be curbed by following some protocols for self-regulation.
COUNTERVIEW: Accept the multidimensionality of pride parades
A major problem with the CPF’s move is that it seeks to isolate the LGBTQIA+ struggle from the country’s political developments. The lives of minorities are already a mystery to India’s heterosexual or religious majority. Banning posters that highlight inter-minority concerns within the national consciousness will ensure the same stigmas and ignorance endure. It is a step towards depoliticising the queer community’s struggle and reducing the space queer people have for political deliberation and making collective claims.
LGBTQIA+ issues are popularly perceived as individual and distinct issues that do not concern the political mainstream. Focusing on queer issues implies expanding the scope of the pride movement rather than posing limits on it. In fact, the history of women’s movements in India tells us that such isolation ensures that sexual minorities remain marginalised.
Pride parades are often celebrated as an alliance of movements. In India, sexual, religious, and caste minorities face a multitude of intersecting inequalities, such as health, education, political representation, and a life of dignity. While legal emancipation is one axis, the issues of queer oppression in India are multi-dimensional. It would be errant for the Pride March to prioritise legal change while ignoring the multiple heads that the discrimination monster sprouts.
It was during the BJP government’s rule that queerness was decriminalised, but as the SC has revealed, people at the highest offices still work under a discriminatory and heteronormative framework. The Union Law Ministry objected to the appointment of a senior advocate to the High Court. The grounds for objection? He is openly gay and an active proponent of gay rights.
There is self-contradiction in regulating and monitoring the activities of participants during a pride parade. It invalidates queer people’s intersectional experience by constraining their expressions of dissent. For instance, when someone asked CPF if they could make a poster about their identity as a gay Muslim, the CPF expressed reservations about its safety.
Self-censorship is rather antithetical to a primary objective of the movement, which is to demand that the Indian State, the police machinery, and other institutions of authority progress from heteronormativity towards LGBTQIA+ inclusion and acceptance.
- 4 Years After SC Decriminalised Homosexuality, Police Violence Against LGBTQIA+ People Hasn’t Stopped – Article 14
- Mumbai Pride Says No Political Posters Allowed — But Queerness Is Political – The Swaddle
- Thousands join post-pandemic pride parade in Delhi – The Times of India
- The Women’s Movement by Anupama Roy – The Oxford Companion to Politics in India
- No political posters, no ‘bhakt’ bashing — queer group’s rules for Mumbai pride parade – The Print
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Color Positive Foundation should censor the Mumbai pride parade.
b) Color Positive Foundation should not censor the Mumbai pride parade.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Mutating virus: What makes love jihad effective is its slippery form
For the Left:
Message from Amit Shah’s Kashmir Visit
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Checking tax evaders (Punjab) – State Finance and Excise Minister Harpal Singh Cheema led a team of tax department officials on the Delhi-Amritsar National Highway to conduct a check on vehicles to catch tax evaders. At least 38 vehicles were detained since most didn’t have genuine documents or E-way bills. They were transporting goods, steel, rice, and other items.
Why it matters: The special drive was done in the wake of Cheema receiving information on GST evasion on products transported by some trucks and vehicles. The tax department also has a bilingual WhatsApp chatbot and helpline to assist honest taxpayers. The state wants to send a message to potential tax evaders.
Investments from Davos (Telangana) – Telangana came away from the recent World Economic Forum at Davos with ₹21,000 crores worth of investment. Led by Industries Minister KT Rama Rao, the team from the state held dozens of meetings with business leaders. The WEF came forward to establish its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) in Hyderabad. The state’s pavilion at Davos presented information on its geography, IT landscape, and past investments.
Why it matters: Despite some pessimism about the global economy’s prospects at Davos, the state defied global conditions with several big-ticket investments. The Minister and the delegation also met with the Indian diaspora to highlight the state’s progress toward NRIs. They wanted to portray the state as a global investment destination. Among the companies that the state secured investments from are Microsoft, Airtel, PepsiCo, P&G, etc.
22 castes in the state’s list (Odisha) – The state cabinet approved the inclusion of 22 castes in the state’s list of Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC). The cabinet approved it through an amendment of the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act of 1993. The meeting for their inclusion was headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Why it matters: Currently, there are 22 castes/communities that have been notified by the Centre as OBCs for Odisha. However, till now, they weren’t included in the list of SEBCs in the state. Since these are classified as socially and economically backward, they are required to be included. They will now be eligible for various welfare measures and benefits.
Renting drones to farmers (Rajasthan) – Farmers who are in the low-income group will be able to rent drones to help monitor crops and spray chemicals. 1,500 drones will be available at hiring centres by the state government in a couple of years. Some farmers in the state have already been using drones, and the demand is expected to increase. The drones will be used to monitor the health of crops to see if there’s any damage due to locusts.
Why it matters: The use of drones and AI in agriculture is increasing, and the state wants to promote their use among farmers to help them increase their yield and income. Drone-based spraying of pesticides consumes less water, and crops can be easily replenished. Agriculture expert Shivpal Singh Rajawat said using modern technology in agriculture is necessary to increase productivity.
UNESCO heritage site tag (Assam) – The Charaideo’s royal burial mounds (moidams) in Assam has been nominated for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site. These pyramids of Assam, as they’re sometimes known, have been linked to the royal tombs of ancient China and the Egyptian pyramids. This was chosen by the government from a list of 52 sites proposed by other states. In September, a team from UNESCO will inspect the site.
Why it matters: This was the first capital established by King Sukapha, the founder of the kingdom who gave the state its name. The Ahom dynasty ruled the state for six centuries, from 1228 to 1826. These moidams were filled with personal artefacts and jewels. They were first included in the tentative list in 2014 but didn’t make the final cut.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
400 – The government will develop 400 new Vande Bharat trains in the next two years. Since they are faster, travelling time will be reduced by an average of 25-45%. More funds for the Vande Bharat project are expected to be announced in the forthcoming budget.