Rights

Why No Mention of LGBTQ in Your Orlando Tweet, Mr Prime Minister?

American security and FBI teams near the Orlando gay club where 50 people were killed by a shooter on Sunday. Credit: PTI

American security and FBI teams at the Orlando gay club where 50 people were killed by a shooter on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Dear Prime Minister,

A few days ago, I watched you speak in the US Congress. You came across as a poised, persuasive and superbly witty world-leader. You were a picture of confidence and I felt proud that my PM held his own on the world stage.

Two days after that historic speech, a terrible massacre took place right there in the United States. Fifty innocent people dancing in an Orlando nightclub lost their lives to a bigoted gun-man. While we were reeling from the horrific news, you tweeted; expressing shock and offering prayers for the bereaved and their families.

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While your words seemed kind and compassionate, I would like you to know, sir, that they shook me up. I have never felt more betrayed. Your 110 character tweet was missing five important characters. Five characters that would reveal a truth that your government is refusing to acknowledge-‘LGBTQ’!

The Orlando shooting took place in a gay club. Those that perished were all members of the LGBTQ community. You surely know sir, that LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people. It is an umbrella term for a people with an alternative sexual orientation. We exist not just in the United States and the rest of the world, but in India too.

We have existed since time immemorial. Indian mythology is replete with instances of same-sex unions. But you know that already and that is not the point of this letter. I am concerned with the omission of those 5 important alphabets, and a tweet that is only a half-truth.

Since your tweet, social media has been abuzz with this question; Why didn’t our PM acknowledge what all other world leaders are openly acknowledging? Since you are known not to address such issues from our own soil, here is my own theory.

A barbaric law

When the Supreme Court of India overturned the judgement decriminalizing homosexuality in 2013, it was a big blow for India’s LGBTQ community. For four years it had been lulled into a false sense of security and many had bravely come-out of their closets. But suddenly, the community became exposed. The LGBTQ were deemed criminals again, and it had nowhere to hide anymore. The whole world could see this travesty and everyone from the United Nations to the WHO condemned the upholding of this barbaric law.

Human Rights Organizations, NGOs and a wonderfully responsible Indian media tried desperately to bring to your attention the horrors of 377, but pleas for justice fell on deaf years. We soon learned that the alphabets ‘LGBTQ’ just didn’t exist in the books of the political class.

This was despite the Supreme Court ruling that the amendment to Section 377 should be a matter left to parliament. We waited in hope, but the newly elected NDA government did not entertain the issue. When Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, attempted to introduce the private members bill to amend 377, he was laughed at and ridiculed for daring to speak of the 5 invisible alphabets. Aspersions were cast on his own sexuality and the issue was quickly forgotten. This happened twice.

Could it be dear sir, that had you called the LGBTQ community by its name, you would have faced a backlash from your supporters back home? What then would be the reaction of the sadhvis and babas who profess a cure for this ‘dreaded disease’? What would happen to the openly anti-gay stance of some of your party leaders?

Did you also fear that by displaying compassion towards a bunch of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people in the US, you would be expected to show some love to members of the same community in your country? Would it then expose to the world leaders you rub shoulders with, the true state of sexual minorities in India?

Most states in the US acknowledge people of the LGBTQ community as complete citizens, with voting rights, the right to marry and the right to live a fulfilled existence. People from the LGBTQ community in the US are key decision makers in politics, media and industry. It is possible to be Apple’s Tim Cook, whom you hosted recently, tennis’s Martina Navratilova and politics’ Barney Frank and still be gay!

LBGTQ is about human rights

When foreign dignitaries tweeted their condolences for the LGBTQ in the Orlando shootings, those alphabets stood for respect, for diversity, for human rights.

That is perhaps why you could not include those alphabets in your tweet. Because LGBTQ stands for quite something else in India. Its stands for a people deemed as criminals; for the ‘sick-minded in need of a cure’; for people who are suicidal; for those prone to rape; to discrimination at the workplace. For humiliation, for loneliness.

While these are all traits common to homophobia the world over, and one cannot deny that it could be the primary cause for the Orlando shootings, India’s LGBTQ community is tragically worse off.

Because unlike the Americans, the LGBTQ in India cannot fight for justice. It must suffer in silence, because if it asked for help, its members could be arrested, harangued and blackmailed by the very keepers of the law. Isn’t it heart-breaking sir, that citizens who contribute to India’s economy, cannot seek the support of the PM it elected?

And the irony, it seems to me, is that just like those missing alphabets in your tweet, the LGBTQ community remains invisible to you.

I’m hoping dear sir, that you will tweet again. This time to the ‘LGBTQ’ community of India, acknowledging its existence and its struggle. Your ‘thoughts and prayers’ are needed to stop the slow massacre of India’s sexual minorities. To stop the massacre of its soul and its self-esteem.

Maybe then, India will also reveal its hidden Tim Cooks, Martina Navratilovas and Barney Franks to the world.

Apurva Asrani is a National Award winning film maker and script writer

Categories: Rights

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  • S.Thiyagarajan

    All imaginary grievances without any substance. PM Modi has expressed his shock and condoled the death and maiming of humans there. LGBTs are humans only, not superhumans. As a PM he has better things to do than listening to these imaginary grievances and re-tweeting.

    • Shashaank

      I agree. He expressed his sadness for all humans and that’s how it should be.
      What I don’t understand though is – why Modiji didn’t tweet for loss of lives in Mathura or during the Haryana riots. 🙁

    • http://sushubh.net/ chromaniac

      Yes. Human rights of around 5% (could be as high as 13% based on some reports. Indian government however claims that the number is just around 25 lakhs which is laughable to be honest.) of the Indian population is not important enough for our Pradhan Sevak’s attention.

    • Ashim

      As a PM he needs to address the issue that LGBTQ people face in INDIA. They are branded as criminals, which might not be very important to you anyway, but it is to them. In India, LGBTQ people aren’t even treated as humans and you call them Superhumans? LOL. The irony!

  • K SHESHU BABU

    …..because the question of fundemental rights to LGBTQ is pending in court and the right wing has great apprehensions of that community. The condolence statement is only a formality and gesture of sympathy. It will wane away with time and the problems of the LGBTQ will remain unresolved at least for some time.

  • Jai Kumar Banthia

    Look bro, I understand LGBTAQ+ deserve equal human rights. But in our country majority of people are homophobic. And politicians always follow what their voters say. You should learn from the gay marriage fight in USA, and apply it to india with suitable adjustments. That means instead of using negative tactics (cursing homophobic people), you need to create a positive campaign about love, acceptance and tolerance. It’s the harsh truth. Think about it, have our “liberal” chief ministers (from congress etc) said that the police departments in their states won’t prosecute consensual relations?

  • HVSR

    @Apurva Asrani,
    Looks like you have missed the point. The PM has only expressed shock about the barbaric act of killing “human beings” by some one who is not “being human” and you like to drag the irreparable loss of life committed by a fanatic into LGBTQ rights in India? You are utilising the popular and tragic news item to highlight the laws referring to LGBT. This vilifies not just your intent but also the whole subject LGBTQ rights. Please do not bring in such a serious subject of “equality, life and liberty” while we are grieving the horrific deaths of 50 fellow human beings which was perpetrated by a person who had no respect for the same thing. Please don’t connect unconnectable items, have some respect for the suffering and pain, and the LGBTQ community. Please do not be opportunistic.

    • Saani

      well said

  • Mutineer57

    The PM has express his sorrow for those families who lost their loved one, but why writer Apurva Asrani included that terrorist in the list of those who got killed, Is it not foolish?