Every year, the last Sunday of November drapes Delhi in rainbow colours.
It was the same story this weekend as hundreds of people took to the streets in the Capital under a mellow winter sun, marching through the heart of the city demanding equality of gender and sexuality as part of the Delhi Queer Pride.
But this year’s Queer Pride was not only about the LGBT -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender -- community and the freedom they seek but also a march in solidarity to demand a whole range of freedoms that are under threat.
“Pride, for me, is about equality in all senses. It is not restricted only to sexualities. It is resistance against patriarchy, casteism, class oppression, Hindutva, language chauvinism and every oppression that attempts to silence us,” said Deepan Kannan, a Delhi resident who was also part of the march.
The focus of the pride for many years has been the repeal of Section 377 that criminalises same-sex lives and the demand for dignity for people of diverse gender and sexuality expressions in public and private spaces.
But, as the pre-event statement said, such a struggle cannot be isolated from other forms of violent suppression of rights – be it centred around caste, class, religion, disability or the ability to express dissent.
And no wonder, the pride saw an articulation of demands of freedom by a wide section of people.
Activists from the Occupy UGC movement, Dalit rights movement and FTII spoke out on the need to demand collective freedom from patriarchal oppression.
“More than ever before, today we face constraints on our freedoms and rights as enshrined in the Constitution, and it could get worse. Our idea of justice cannot be narrow,” said Dhiren Borisa, a PhD scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Many participants also seemed suspicious of the ruling BJP’s motive and didn’t trust finance minister Arun Jaitley’s statement on Saturday that the Supreme Court may have erred in re-criminalising homosexuality in a 2013 judgment.
“We want to tell him that it’s not enough to just talk about 377 when casteism and communalism is rampaging,” said a participant who didn’t want to be named.
The march began around 2.40 pm and saw hundreds of LGBT people and allies walk the two-km stretch between the Barakhamba Road crossing in Connaught Place and Jantar Mantar. The march ended with a clutch of performances.
Slogans of “I’m gay, that’s ok” and “Humein kya chahiye? Azaadi” (What do we want? Freedom) echoed throughout even as participants became the voices of writers, scientists and historians protesting against shrinking spaces for dissent.
The underlying message of Queer Pride this year was the assertion that it is time to end all these fears, and that queer freedom is inseparable from a broader culture of respect and space for diversity.
“Queer people cannot be free in a world where people of various hues are shackled, not just because a common oppressor -– overarching patriarchy – attacks us all, but also because many of us straddle multiple identities – we’re Dalit and queer, Muslim and queer, Tribal and queer, Disabled and queer.”
The pride statement was not just a statement, it was also the message.
(The author is a part of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee and views expressed are personal)