Living on the Fringe

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Killed for being differentDespite decriminalistion of homosexuality, Delhi hasn’t become a safe city and  crimes against gays keep happening. Dr. Himadri Roy writes about some cases that received wide media coverage

Ever since homosexuality was decriminalized in 2009 by Delhi High Court, there has been some confusion pertaining to whether the ruling applies to the whole country or is restricted to the national capital. As legal experts later pointed out, the verdict was applicable across the nation. Still, it was widely belived that Delhi is a safe city for the LGBT community because of this historical judgment decriminalizing consensual sex among adult gay men, which would be applicable without any confusion.

However, going by the various attacks on members of the LGBT community in the recent months that was covered in the print news media, the gruesome truth remains that despite the verdict, gay bashing continues in the city and police have done little to stop it. Gay bashing isn’t new to this city, it had been happening for a long time, since 80s when the Sikhs were attacked. But very few cases were registered as FIRs and the media coverage was controlled by the monopolization of the contemporary government.

In December 24, 2002, the dead body of Sagar Gupta, 26, a resident of Shahdara, was recovered from the dilapidated building at the crossing of Barakhamba Marg and Tolstoy Marg. It was found that the corpse was two days old. A suicide note was recovered from the site which mentioned about Sagar having an affair with another unnamed guy who dumped him because he was not highly educated for another well-qualified guy. The torture of losing his boy friend was not acceptable to Sagar. The suicide case was filed at Parliament Street Police Station, but shelved soon and till date no arrests were made.

Narendra Rawat, 24, was brutally murdered by chopping of his genitals and his headless body was recovered from an unused bus of the Sarai Kale Khan Bus Depot. It was found that he was sodomized. The murder case was registered, but this case has also never been solved for the media was unaware of these two incidents.

But Pushkin Chandra, 38, who was a retired IAS officer’s son, and his friend , Kuldeep, were murdered on August 13, 2004, at his residence in Anand Lok of South Delhi. It got a huge media coverage. Being a powerful person’s son, the cops took a note of it immediately and arrested four men Moti, 26, Rajesh Rekwar, 27, Munna, 24, and Jai Kishore, 26. Later, the Delhi High Court acquitted Munna and Jai Kishore for lack of proof, but both Moti and Rajesh were given life sentence, relying on the 38 witnesses, including Hare Ram, the domestic help at Chandra’s residence.

The same year Naz foundation filed a PIL at Delhi High Court against Section 377 for decriminalizing LGBT people from these forms of gay- bashing.

Media slowly picked this issue up in their everyday newspaper. News Magazines also covered them in details. Hindustan Times in their Sunday Magazine of 29 August, 2004, covered news on the topic of growing up as a gay man. Similarly India Today, in their issue published on September 20, 2004, carried out a sex survey throughout Indian males. It brought into notice of the public that around 19% of Indian men had homosexual experiences in their lives. But after two years, November 13, 2006 issue, the same magazine came out with revealing facts of single young men during their sex survey. There was a rise of 6% of homosexual practices amongst young Indian males, it rose from 31% to 37% within two years. In the same year, Outlook came out with another sex survey where men and women were focused at the same time. It brought out another fact in public domain that 20% of people living in cities had same sex experience in one year, and 23% of this average was in the Metro cities.

In that same year, another double murder case was registered in Shaheen Bagh of south Delhi, on May 8, 2006. Both Hindustan Times and Times of India brought out the news after two days. The accused, Mohammad Wasim, 23, was arrested for the murder of Akhtar Afindi, 52, and Jamshed Alam, 32, after Qasim, Akhtar’s neighbor, revealed as a witness of seeing them entering his house. Wasim confessed that he was involved in a homosexual relationship with both the victims. Jamshed was his co-conspirator for murdering Akhtar, who was a moneylender and Wasim was his recovery agent, but due to some dispute between the two –Jamshed and Wasim, Wasim strangled Jamshed also for Rs.20,000/- robbed from Akhtar’s bedroom.

Then came the queer liberation of India’s historical date, 29 July, 2009, the judgment was drawn in favor of the LGBT community. But gay bashing didn’t stop there. For few months, the excitement was so high that people from the community and the NGOs working for their liberation didn’t take much note of gay bashings. Numerous cases have been reported in the print media.

On May 21, 2011, Ram Lakhan from Samastipur, Bihar, was murdered by axe, and his material possessions went missing. FIR at Kanjhawala, Outer Delhi, was lodged and three persons were accused, one of them being his gay partner Sanjay alias Gandhi, 24. Virender Pandit and Sanjay were arrested on June 7, 2011 and the other accused is still absconding.

Similarly on August 29, 2011, a garment manufacturer, Narender Narang, 44, was brutally murdered by two men, Pradeep Kishore, 21, and Kamal Kishore, 19, after having sex with him. They took away Rs.50,000/- cash and Narang’s mobile phone. The case was solved only on September 22.

On 5th January, 2012, Balbir Krishan, an artist who is differently-abled, exhibited his paintings “Out Here and Now”, and was attacked by a fundamentalist group at 10:30 am. His creative ability was distorted just by few people. The media covered it vehemently.

And the latest, Sunil Gupta’s photography exhibition called “Sun City and other Stories” opened on 23rd March, 2012, was called off that day itself. The media took three days to cover this news, until Tuesday, 27th March.

These news unfold such a heinous and horrendous reality which most of us are aware of – gay bashing. In fact, gays have to encounter such real life incidents in their lives in this country –whether in terms of threat, extortion, attack or murder. Every moment of life seems to be lived on tenterhooks of the majoritarian’s diktat. They cannot rebel because the law doesn’t provide them that space of freedom in this country even after 60 years of independence.

Whether gays live a life in closet or openly declare their sexuality, they have to undergo the terrorizing effect of family and society at large. In some cases, a gay child, after coming out to the parents, is dragged to a psychiatrist for medical help, and in some extreme cases, electric shocks are also given. Hindustan Times in its November 27, 2011 edition carried out an article on “unhappy parents looking to cure their gay kids”. Dr. Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychiatrist at VIMHANS, says, “People playing the(se) political and legal battles are being insensitive to emotions and mental helath of gays. They are causing extreme trauma.” Another psychiatrist, Dr. Aadesh Srivastava supports Dr, Sharma’s point and adds to it, “LGBT people are living in fear, and most vulnerable of them have become suicidal.”

Even as we await the final verdict from the Supreme Court on this matter, these cases highlight an important aspect, that mere legalization of homosexuality will do little to change things at the ground level. The State should also ensure that there is enough protection granted to sexual minorities as well, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity be done away with. Above all, a nation-wide sensitization and awareness program by the Indian government to protect the interest of sexual minorities is the need of the hour.