In what is being described as the worst attack on US soil after 9/11, 50 people partying at a gay nightclub were massacred by a gun wielding man. Another 53 were left injured. LGBT community around the world was left shocked, and so was the rest of the world. Condemnation of the act came from all quarters, and Indian leaders weren’t to be left behind.
Sample some of the statements that the leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi made:
Shocked at the shootout in Orlando, USA. My thoughts & prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 12, 2016
Shocked by the news of #OrlandoShooting incident. Precious lives lost to cowardly act of terror.My prayers are with the families of victims.
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) June 12, 2016
News from Florida is distressing.Deeply pained at loss of so many precious lives in senseless shooting on innocent people.This is barbaric.
— ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) June 12, 2016
Saddened by the loss of so many lives in the Florida attack #Florida .
— Rajeev Shukla (@ShuklaRajiv) June 12, 2016
But did you notice something missing in the tweets above? None of them even slightly eluded to the fact that it was an attack at a gay nightclub, driven by homophobia. The word gay is one of derision for the Indian politicians, one that must not be used, not even when 50 people get killed because of their sexual orientation.
While our PM has expressed his “shock” over the killings, he has till now maintained a studied silence over Section 377. Probably his heart pains only when there is violence of the physical kind on the LGBT population.
But violence need not be physical all the time. Violence can be in non-physical forms – verbal and mental. Physical violence is easy to show, but it is when violence manifests in other forms that you get to know who your true friends and sympathisers are.
This violence has been perpetuated on the Indian LGBTs by many from Mr. Modi’s own party. It is violence when Subramanian Swamy, whom the dear PM and his party nominated to Rajya Sabha, calls gay as mentally sick and needing treatment. It is violence when hordes of MPs from his own party block a bill to amend Section 377 in the Parliament and disallow any discussion not just once, but twice. It is violence when Baba Ramdev, with whom the PM has shared space often and who is one of his staunchest supporters, says that he can cure homosexuals with Yoga. It is violence when the party that the PM belongs to skirts around the issue and says the topic of repeal of Section 377 needs wider consensus and discussion within their party. Sorry to break it down but Human Rights are not based on consensus of the majority. The very presence of Section 377 is the most violent act that the Indian LGBTs have to face. And it is violence when despite its brute majority, the PM and his party will not address the criminalisation of homosexual acts in India.
The words of the likes of Baba Ramdev and Subramanian Swamy inflict further violence on the bodies of LGBTs when they are taken or dragged by their parents to psychiatrists or doctors who administer them shock therapies and hormones. Is Mr. Modi not shocked enough at this violence? Does the blatant homophobia and the violence it perpetuates in various forms not shock the PM and other leaders of this country?
Indian leaders were shocked at the killings, true, but what is also true is that they were not shocked by the underlying homophobia. By completely erasing the mention of LGBT people in their statements and refusing to condemn the homophobia behind the massacre, they have proven that they will remain blind to the plight of LGBTs in India and world over.