A group of young peace builders from India and Pakistan- identifying as queers and LGBTQIA+ allies- have joined hands to form the Indo-Pak Pride Collective, and have decided to celebrate pride together for the first time on 27th June. Aptly titled “Rainbow over Wagah”, the group is hosting a virtual Indo-Pak Pride Meet that strives to remind the two nation-states and societies of their duty to reject black, obsolete laws (which have been shunned by our past colonial rulers in their society) and embrace a culture that celebrates diversity, a culture that has both historical roots and is progressive and humane.
The event consists of a panel discussion, a trivia quiz, an awareness talk, and music and poetry. The event will begin at 7pm, and the panelists for the discussions are Deepak Kashyap (Indo-Canadian Counsellor and LGBTQIA+Activist), Muhammad Moiz (Pakistan’s Beloved Drag Queen Comedian), Dr. Sakshi Mamgain (Indian Doctor and Advocate for LGBTQIA+ Health) and Aradhiya Khan (Pakistani Trans Rights Activist). An awareness talk on LGBTQIA+ will be given by Tulika Bathija.
For the people involved in conceptualising this event, this isn’t the first time that they are doing an Indo-Pak event. The group has been working together, coordinating peace education activities in Indian and Pakistani educational spaces and in public domain. Last year, they celebrated Independence Day jointly as the fight for independence from colonial rule was a collective one. But they also felt that also felt that while peacebuilders often talk about the common issues between the two countries, there is silence over this LGBTQ+ issue.
“Whenever we talk about Indo-Pak peace, we mainly discuss political and military issues but we never think about marginalized communities of both countries. LGBTQIA+ is one of those communities which still lacks platforms to discuss, come together and learn. This online session is an initiative to bring people of that community from both the countries together because I felt that they can understand the issues of each other more efficiently because they can relate to each other culturally. Whenever we talk about peace between Indo-Pak, our first click will be governments, but it is absurd because peace begins with people to people interaction,” says Jan Sher Khan, a 22 years old student from Gujranwala in Punjab, Pakistan.
The organisers also feel that both Indian and Pakistan are socially and culturally a lot alike, and hence queer people in both these countries face similar issues – stigma, discrimination and even violence.
Nickhil Sharma, a 28 years old PhD Researcher at The Hague, Netherlands, narrates an incident from his life: “When I moved to Europe, I had hoped that I would be able to fit right in because of the more liberal and accepting attitudes towards queer folks. However, I felt very isolated in the first few years because nobody fully understood the challenges I faced as a queer person from India. The family structures, the casual homophobia, the constant need to worry about outing myself to a homophobic person, were all intricately related to the patriarchal strucutres I grew up with in India. So when I found solace, it was among other queer people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey who could relate a lot more to my story and I felt this was important for my coming to terms of my sexuality.” He further adds, “With this event, we hope queer folks in India and Pakistan realize that they are not alone – all their fears, hopes and expectations are valid, and across the border, many people feel the same!”
The organisers say that peace building is closely tied with the notion of social justice. “We cannot be peacebuilders and yet have derogatory notions about certain communities, be it religious or gender-based. So through this event, we also wanted to redefine what peacebuilding should be about. Peacebuilding has to be inclusive. We must recognise and include the marginalised communities as stakeholders.”
The event is being organised with the support and collaboration of various other organisations – Pink List India and Chattisgarh-based youth-run LGBTQ+ initiative Queergarh.
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