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Is India Truly Secular?

Mansi Sharma ponders over the hypocrisy of Indian secularism following the suicide of Prof. Siras who was suspended for being gay

Following the Queer Pride Parades in various cities last year, interest and activism regarding the rights of the ‘queer’ people has gained momentum. A petition was put up and finally, the high court gave a favourable judgment. After the decriminalizing of homosexuality in Article 377, India became one of the few countries in the world that was liberal enough to legally accept the ‘queerness’ as not a disability. This was a brave decision taken by the High Court amidst facing opposition by prominent leaders who claimed that decriminalizing would ‘pollute the moral fabric of our society.’

The sad part is that the radical decision only remained on paper. The country did not develop an adequate machinery to propagate equal living and remove the junta’s misconceptions about homosexuality. Popular media helped, but also trivialized it. Films are the biggest contenders in this. They endorse the stereotypes: gays as effeminate, lesbians as men-hating and transgenders as vulgar, loud creatures.

With many celebrities endorsing the cause and organizations like Nigah and Naz working ceaselessly for the cause, it has finally given a base to the usually suppressed issue of sexuality.

The fact that Indian men are hugely homophobic shows their insecurity about their masculinity and the need to assert it. One may think I’m indulging in stereotyping myself, but I speak from personal experience. Coming out and accepting one’s sexuality is much easier for the rich than it is for the middle and working classes. Most people keep their sexualities hidden from the fear that they would be shunned and isolated by the society.

The recent suicide of Prof. Ramchandra Siras of Aligarh Muslim University shows how entirely different things are on the ground level. People may scream hoarse about being humanists but when things come down to their immediate surroundings, things take an ugly twist.

It is a tough job to change people’s outlook towards life, especially when they are bound by the shackles of religion, caste and morality. But a persistent approach will raise awareness and help the ‘queer’ people to live ‘normal’ lives, without being seen as anomalies.

It is then, probably that we will understand the meaning of living in harmony with people around us.

It is then, that India will actually become secular and tolerant.

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