The Deafening Silence Of The Queer Community Even When Its Own Members Are Attacked Is Shocking

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Koonal Duggal and Moses Tulasi are two gay men who were recently attacked by fascist Universities: English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad and University of Hyderabad (UoH), both in Telangana. Both of these are remarkable figures because they are gay men who, unlike the rest of the right-wing ‘queer movement,’ are building an LGBT politics that engages with and talks to other forms of oppression like those based on caste, tribe and gender.

Duggal is Dalit himself and an illustration of the complex weave of identities that form many of us LGBT subjects. He recently completed his PhD in Cultural Studies on visual representations and caste politics among two Deras in Punjab, a region he began engaging with since his days as an undergraduate there. He is now Guest Faculty at the University of Hyderabad’s Fine Art Department in the Sarojini Naidu School of Fine Arts and Communication at UoH and a well-known and well-respected political activist. He is also mild-mannered, soft-spoken and utterly sweet. Moses Tulasi is a film-maker whose first film documented the wonderfully intersectional Pride march in Hyderabad in 2015 which was flagged off by a Dalit leader. In his current project, he was documenting the movement around the murder of Rohith Vemula by the UoH.

Duggal had a Notice against him by the ludicrous and insecure EFLU accusing him of anti-University activities and of inciting students with inflammatory speeches. The sheer stupidity of the charges shows how Universities, like nations, are the most pathetic institutions we have. Tulasi had his camera taken away from him, the footage removed and he was thrown into jail. He is now out on bail.

Neither figure has backed down. Duggal has filed an SC/ST Atrocities case against the Proctor of EFLU; Moses is going to make that film, whether or not that footage ever returns.

How many ‘queers’ have rallied or organised around these two figures? How many dharnas and morchas have we had in support of them? How much do we know about the cases? What support have we offered? How many of us even care? This is the reality of the ‘queer’ movement. We don’t even care about what happens to one of us.

When I was kicked out of IIT Hyderabad, not only did no queer person ever offer support, the top voices among them wrote vicious attacks on me on the biggest LGBT listserv. These attacks were communal, personalised and offensive. No one on the listserv (thousands of people, including all the queer activists I know) said a word. I know I am among the most hated persons around (and I do not give a fuck) but even the communal nature of the attacks (I was called a Christian destroyer of the Hindu nation-state by the premier gay activist of the country, Mr. Ashok Row Kavi) did not so much as draw a word from anyone.

Universities should be proud of students like Duggal, value their anti-University activities, hold on to and learn from each one of their inflammatory words. Instead, they ban them from University campuses using outrageous rules (like PhD students who have submitted can’t come to campus after 15 days of submitting, even if that only applies to living in the hostel) and procedures. Universities should value film-makers like Tulasi who are producing material that can be taught and studied, who are keeping the academic industry going. Both figures are so necessary in Universities as they save the Universities from stagnating in the oppressive conditions that gave birth to them as institutions.

We have come to accept Universities in India as the worst repositories of dead shit in the country. Since Narendra Modi came to power, we also know them as violent and fascist hell holes. But what is truly disgusting and shocking is the ‘queer community’s’ silence in the face of these attacks on some of its only radical and worthwhile members like Koonal Duggal and Moses Tulasi. Without them, there is no telling the difference between the Narendra Modi government, the VC of UoH, the VC and Proctor of EFLU and the ‘queer movement.’

 

Ashley Tellis

Ashley Tellis is an LGBT rights activist and an academic