Last week, a group of religious leaders came together on one platform to denounce the Delhi High Court’s modification of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. As we all know by now, the court decriminalised sex between two consenting adults, no matter their sexualities, by redefining the notion of what in 21st century India constitutes the term ‘against the order of nature’. Basically, the rainbow coalition of clerics was protesting against the fact that to be a homosexual in India was no longer a crime and that the court ruling was part of a grand narrative unleashed to “destroy India’s moral and social values”. This is not an opinion that is limited to these gentlemen alone. A large section of society — the majority, even — when made to engage with the issue of homosexuality has recoiled and will continue to do so for some time to come. The Public Interest Litigations against the High Court’s ruling have started piling up, and judicial challenges will not only come from the faithful but also from citizens of Middle India.
But in the much-publicised huddle against homosexuality, one compelling irony was lost: the fact that different religious leaders came together for a common cause was possible only because the protagonists decided to tolerate their emphatic differences of faith. Swap religious orientation for sexual orientation and the same rules would apply: be aware of people who do not share a particular identity but allow to go about their business. There have been enough occasions when this ‘live and let live’ approach has temporarily broken down when it came to sectarian differences based on faith. It was, thus, reassuring at one level that Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Jain religious leaders were not squabbling but agreeing on something. What was awry about the show of faith was that they agreed on something that goes counter to the inclusiveness that the Constitution and the very history of this country proudly and emphatically advertises.
In an unfortunate era, such mingling by leaders of different religions may not have gone down well with the laity. One sincerely hopes that in the not-so-distant future, the inability of clerics as well as many other people of this country to tolerate the existence and freedom of people who do not share their sexual orientation — and the way they choose to live within the law — will also be considered an unfortunate period of the past.