A lot of social struggles have served society, in terms of creating a welcoming space for all where all will live with dignity and respect. These movements were either against institutional or pre-existing social conditions. In pursuant to their rights, some marginal populations are striving hard to be on equal footing with dominant groups. These minority groups have been subjected to oppression and subjugation which resulted in mass struggles such as anti-caste movements, LGBTQ+ movements, and others. However, there has been a lack of attention given to the intra-community conundrums, where unprivileged members are still fighting against privileged members, so as to claim their rights as parallel to the latter one. The laws have adopted liberation struggles but it seems to be ineffective in addressing the intersectional nature of oppression. For example; the LGBTQ+ community is based on caste, nationality, class, and other factors. But unfortunately, injustice and discrimination within the community have been rendered invisible.
FURTHER MARGINALIZATION: LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS OF HINDU NEOLIBERAL NATIONALISM
If decolonizing section 377 were meant to decriminalize same-sex practices then it is also worth addressing the prevalence of Brahmanical supremacy and caste based discrimination within the community. Unfortunately, we are living in a society where we tend to link sexuality with Hindu identity, for instance, in Deepa Mehta’s movie where two women protagonists named Radha and Sita are depicted as a lesbian couple, which later became a controversial because naming the main characters after Hindu goddesses were triggering for Hindu homophobic people. The context of using this example is to expose the hypocrisy, as Nishant Upadhyay argues that, under the “homohindunationalsim” as long as the upper caste queers comply with the Hindutva ideology i.e. Brahminical and Islam phobic proclivity, they are welcomed to be accepted but not otherwise. There is a simultaneous rise of the Hindu queer and neoliberal subjects where they are lured by consumerism and capitalism (Homocapitalism) similarly, they associate with national ideology (Homonationalist), which is creating havoc within the community. These subjects would appreciate the ideology of right wings, as many upper caste queers believe that Hinduism was always queer-friendly but it was only after the Muslim invasion when India’s tolerance of diverse sexual practices took a plunge. Similarly, Shiv Sena’s appeal from the Dalit constituency in the state of Maharashtra was a way of consolidating and mobilizing the anti-Muslim electorate. Hence, blaming Muslims as a homophobic religion is further creating a sense of discrimination against Muslim queers. Likewise, the corporates in aftermath of Kaushal Kumar’s judgment in 2013, came out with queer friendly products in a support of queer’s struggle, but in reality, their progressive appeal was based on class (elite) and upper caste queers which helped in furthering the marginalization of intra sub groups who come from suburban and backward places who could not afford those products. It is pertinent to note that the queer activists need to understand the exploitation of laborers through the flow of global capitalism and how the elite gay men contribute to the Pink tourism where they can easily outreach for the fancy products and expensive world tours.
BOLLYWOOD AND QUEER REPRESENTATION
It’s worth highlighting the invisibilities of marginalized queers in contrast with elite or upper caste queers through the “bollywodisation” of international platforms which represents only a specific section. For example, endorsed by the United Nation’s awareness program under Free & Equal, while featuring a Bollywood short video named “The Welcome ”, seems to ignore the existence of indigenous poor queers and their lifestyles in India. The video which showed an affluent family who are accepting the same sex marriage, suggests that we are entering the mise-en-scène of India’s queer politics in the 21st century. It has become imperative to ask: Which class do they represent in the video? Who were the people coming from? What kind of houses do they live in? What kind of accessories and clothes were they wearing? What was their religion? In fact, the video indicates an elite class and upper caste queer’s chic lifestyles.
WORKING CLASS GAYS VS. ELITE GAYS IN METROPOLITAN CITIES
Drawing an analogy where, Karl Max propounded the idea of “Self-estrangement” in his theory of alienation where he talked about i.e., Bourgeois and Proletarians where the former one would feel self-estrangement as a special power in human existence while the latter one would feel self-estrangement as annihilated from rest of the society and exposes the reality of inhuman existence. On a similar note, Alok Gupta argues that we can differentiate two different categories of homosexuals in Indian metropolitan cities based on the material realities of lifestyle. On the one hand, it’s working-class gays who are employed to distribute contraception in public places, work under NGOs, and have subaltern occupations with which an elite gay man would never be associated. On the other hand, its the elite gay men who would access or create “erotic satisfaction” through luxurious lifestyles such as outing for foods, film festivals, support meetings, and collective celebrations. Therefore, sometimes, it seems that the Stonewall movement has been brahmanised in India, so much so that, the poor working-class homoerotic subjects with different backgrounds are unable to associate with stonewall movements, gay arts, and gay film?
VOICES OF DALIT AND ADIVASI QUEERS IN “QUEER MOVEMENT IN INDIA”
Decriminalization of the same sex as a win through legal battles was mostly driven from a standpoint of upper-class gay individuals. In the 2018 judgment, it was gay elite celebrities who filed the petition. Similarly, in response to the petition filed against the colonial legislation, the meeting was hosted where bisexual-lesbian women’s collective opposed the petition on the pretext that concerns of Hijras have not been addressed because their acts were mostly under the control of police who arrest them on propped up allegations of violating public morality.
Therefore, we cannot say that the queer movement is homogenous because the voices of the elite upper caste could be heard in a legal battle to declare sodomy law obsolete and this is how they gain their visibility while narrating the idea of the “Indian queer movement” at global platforms. But, Dalit, Adivasis, poor Hijras, and other minority queers lack visibility and their credits which have been overshadowed by these elite queers in the Indian queer movement.
Kiruba Munusamy while sharing her thoughts on caste and queers said “talking about caste-based discrimination means not to talk about it”. The Dalit queers are being stereotyped as dirty, smelly, and raw. Upper caste queers would more often say that the queer is a very western concept that lower caste queers would have never grown up with. Dhiren Borisa argues that “Many of us (Dalit queers) are just a residual of queer movements in India”. Borisa says that the only thing remaining visible is the brutalization, violence, and discrimination against the marginalized queers. The very fact that anti-caste flags in the parade were heavily criticized is a clear manifestation of encouraging caste-based differentiation among the queers, which seems problematic. Borisa further says that it’s very unfortunate that more than 7 thousand queers (mostly elite or upper caste) showed up in one of the pride parades, in contrast with only 30 individuals who showed up in a parade led by one of the marginalized groups of the same community. Therefore, we can say that the gender identity intersects with other identities such as caste, ethnicity, religion, and class further complicating the queer movement in India, and hence it is imperative to take into consideration these factors of differentiation within the community. Similarly, it has been observed that the online/offline spaces have mostly been dominated by upper caste Hindu gay men. As argued by Borisa, the upper caste identity has become a tool for flaunting a valuable and sexy identity. In dating apps such as Grinder, there is a rise in using upper caste titles such as Gowda, Gujjar, and Rajput. This is how the caste has been racialised and the visibility of these upper caste queers in the mainstream arena is way higher than the other marginalized queers such as Dalit.
Author’s Name: Shivam Sharma (NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)