THE COMMUNITY UNITES – India’s Stonewall?

I had just returned back from my alma- mater after my convocation when I turned my laptop on and saw the link of TV9’s video posted in one of the Facebook groups. A slow net connection only meant that I couldn’t view the video. Tired from the journey and still excited about the newly awarded degree, I posted my comments below the shared video and went to sleep. Till then, only a few comments had been posted beneath it. By the time I woke up the next morning (which was a bit late) there were various posts related to that topic, each with more than 50 comments or so. The Youtube video had been flagged by so many people that it had been removed by then, and the TV channel had been sent a legal notice by one of the support groups. All this, within less than 24 hours!

And no, it wasn’t just the Facebook group that saw some activity. The discussion had been taking place in all the forums that I knew… some that had been lying dormant for ages!! TV9, in the name of journalism (sensational journalism to be exact) tried to “expose” the gay subculture of Hyderabad city by doing a sting operation. In a TV report, each and every spoken word of which stinks of deep homophobia, the news channel “went undercover” and shot with hidden cameras the various parties being organized for members of the LGBT community in the city. It then showed on TV the profiles of various members of a popular dating site and its journalists even posed as users of the site and called up a few other unsuspecting users, asking them intimate questions, recording them, and then beaming them on Television, along with their names and other information. How can attending parties and having a profile in one of the dating sites be unlawful and criminal, especially after the 2nd July 2009 verdict of Delhi High Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India, is something only TV9 can explain.

But what the incident certainly did was bring the whole community together under one roof to fight for their rights. That their life could so easily be infringed upon, with utter disregard to privacy, and that it could have been any one of “us” brought every one out from deep slumber. This time around, there weren’t activists protesting against such homophobia, instead, it was THE COMMUNITY standing up for its rights. The Youtube video couldn’t have been brought down within hours without “mass support”. Even the most dormant of forums wouldn’t have become alive again had the members not felt the urgency to “fight back” and create a movement, the kind of movement that the Middle East is experiencing because people are tired of living a suppressed life. The realization dawned on the community and just like the Egyptian revolution was a faceless revolution, this one also was a faceless revolution (if I may call it so). You couldn’t pin-point a person or a group who started it all, it were THE PEOPLE who did it. I can’t recall any incident in recent memory where the whole LGBT community would have come together in such a big way to mark their protest, anger and outrage. The pride parades may be seeing huge turnovers, but then, that is a well planned activity and is more about celebration of sexuality. On the other hand, the spontaneity with which THE COMMUNITY responded to this incident to register their protest is what marks it out. It was the kind of spontaneity that had been shown by the protesters during the Stonewall Riots. It may be too early to call it the Indian equivalent of Stonewall Riot, but the response from the Indian gay community bears many a mark of that fateful night. Will this particular incident be a turning point in the LGBT movement in India? While that question may be hard to answer at this moment, it is beyond doubt that the community has been united like never before.

P.S. A Peaceful protest is being organised in Mumbai on 25th Feb at 7pm outside TV9’s office. You can get the details here

Sukhdeep Singh