When the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay (IIT-B) became the first Indian campus to recognise a support group for gays, called Saathi, it was termed as progressive. On August 1, Saathi made a presentation on homosexuality as part of the orientation session for 400 new students.
But reactions were mixed. (See panel on the far right.) Students put up comments such as ‘Segregate them’ on social networking sites. But others supported the initiative saying, ‘Let’s be part of this revolution and support Saathi.’ “It is sad. It is very unbecoming of some of India’s brightest minds to be so socially unaware and insensitive,” said Vijay Venu, a member of Saathi. “While there are many fellow students, alumni and faculty who’re very supportive, there is also a lot of spite, which is deeply disturbing.” The gay student community feels that the support has to mainly come from the institution.
While Saathi is the only recognised support group so far, there are other campus initiatives. One of the first campus initiatives in the country was in Queer Campus India in Delhi. They had their first public meeting on June 12 last year. In May this year, three youngsters, two from Jai Hind College and the other from KC College, started Rainbow University Network and a blog to support network for homosexuals.
“The faculty has to stand by you, only then a support group can be formed. Hopefully, other colleges will follow the IIT-B example. We never had that sort of support, ” said a founder of the network from KC College. “I remember that in the second year when everyone discovered a former student was gay it became such a big deal after which I was even more freaked out.”
But there are some who came out and are happier for it. “At Jai Hind College, there are quite a few people who are out. It differs from college to college. At Jai Hind, it is like ‘Oh she is gay, so what.’ A few gay students are very popular too. Even gays I know at St Xavier’s are comfortable about their sexuality and the campus is very comfortable with who they are,” said a founder member of Rainbow University Network from Jai Hind College.
The team is soon hoping to hold a public meeting to talk about issues such as coming out on campus.