25/10/2015 8:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Queer Or Not, Join Hands To Reclaim Your Freedom

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 30: Indian members and supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community hold placards and dances during a Gay Pride Parade, on November 30, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Nearly a thousand gay rights activists marched to demand an end to discrimination against gays in India's deeply conservative society. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


By Sambhav Sharma

Growing up I had to claim my safe space in a dominant straight/heterosexual culture. My sexuality has constantly been policed by the state, the mainstream literature, by the cinema of our times, by elders, by teachers, by moralists, by politicians. There are millions like me in this country, people who belong to the queer community. But then there are many other minority groups in India. What about you? Do you belong to one?

Today, you're faced with a feeling of oppression by your state. The state now tells you that Hinduism is above all the other religions and practices. You must practice its way of living. Recently, you read about a place called Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, where a Muslim man, the father of an Indian Air Force staffer, was killed by a murderous mob for the rumoured "crime" of eating beef, a meat that is banned in several states today. About a month ago or so, the government declared that watching porn is illegal (though that ban has been lifted now). Back then, when you logged on, you realised all the popular porn sites were blocked. It was not done with your consent. This is still a democracy, right?

"The freedom to be who we are and to express ourselves as we want to is likely to become a luxury that we won't be able to afford soon."

The RSS and other Hindu fundamentalist groups have emerged like wild mushrooms in every part of this country like never before. They are the religious police who are controlling many urban and rural spaces. This month, the Shiv Sena hit the front page news again. They emerged as the sole spokesperson for the state of Maharashtra as they imposed a ban on a concert of the legendary Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali, who was made to bear the guilt of what Ajmal Kasab did. This was followed by the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni. Ashok Vajpeyi, a gifted poet, recently wrote a short note on why he returned the Sahitya Akademi Award. "These are very difficult times for literature, the arts, tradition and culture," he explained. "The plurality, accommodation and inclusion, openness, multi-linguality and multi-religiosity which have sustained and energised us are all under assault constantly.''

Does that make you feel scared of what's in store for all us? Do you feel angry?

Most of us are angry. More than 25 gifted writers have returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award to the state because they don't identify with the hostile environment created by our current government. Like me, and many other minorities, they too feel oppressed. As poet Ashok Vajpeyi wrote in his note, ''We are on the brink of a tyranny of uniformity and parochialism. Violence, murder, intolerance, bans are creating a fearful ethos. Being in a minority is almost a crime.''

That's how we, the minorities, have felt since the independence of this complex country called India. We're oppressed and discriminated against for who we are. It's been happening for a long long time now. But today, it's not just us the current government is going after. The BJP and the Prime Minister have made you a direct target and you should feel as angry as we do about the current state of affairs.

It's time for all us to come together and fight against the fascist government that we accidentally chose and are stuck with. Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on 26 May, 2014, and since then we minorities have been thanking our lucky stars just for surviving one day at a time under this fascist government. We're not the only ones counting the days until the next election. This fight is not ours alone anymore. The current government is attacking the very idea of freedom in our lives and we need to wake up to this fact. The freedom to be who we are and to express ourselves as we want to is likely to become a luxury that we won't be able to afford soon. The irony is that we still call our nation democratic.

But all of us are in this together, whether we belong to the LGBTQ community, the Dalit community or just the general population.

It should also be very clear to us now that whether we are minority or not, those of us who feel our freedoms impinged upon have to come together to fight against this government that we are stuck with for the next few years. Our freedom is under attack and we need to reclaim it.

Sambhav Sharma is a young Indian LGBTQ rights activist who helped drive Queer Campus among students in Delhi since 2010. He is a translator and interpreter by profession. He writes, reads, travels and dreams of a better India, a better world.

A version of this post was first published at Gaylaxy

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