An Activist Explains What Made The Kolkata Pride Parade Truly Great This Year

Posted by Suchandra Ganguly in Cake, LGBTQ, Society
December 19, 2016

There is no denying the fact that the Rainbow Pride Walk across the globe has become a signature event for the LGBT community across the world. But in India the context is quite different when it comes to celebration of one’s own identity beyond the binary. The bindings towards one’s own identity come from rigid inhibitions which in the current context is beyond social. It’s hardcore political, economic, and undoubtedly patriarchal and now, to a larger extent, religious.

The saffron government of the world’s largest democracy is trying to regulate our knowledge, understanding, and literature. The biggest boon to this personal crisis period has given rise to a situation where assimilation of forces against this fascist regime has become the need of the hour.

Photo Credit: Kaushik Gupta

Separated voices, despite being individualistically larger in number, are becoming ineffective and hence the urge for combining forces. The Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival 2016 bore testimony to this fact beautifully this year, and is the reason why this pride is by far my favourite Kolkata Pride Walk.

The theme this year was ‘human rights and laws’ and the day chosen was December 11, the world Human Rights Day. It was a black day in the Indian gender and sexuality rights movement, when the Supreme Court upholds 377 by re-criminalising sexual acts that are conducted without the intention of reproduction (“against the law of nature”).

The Pride Walk was unique because of certain aspects which I found to be startling and hopeful. Those who joined the walk were not just people from the LGBTQ community. There was a marked presence of new faces that joined the movement because they thought it important to be part of it. Members of student groups like All India Students Union (AISA) were part of the walk as well. I was really thrilled to meet students from Jawaharlal Nehru University who had come to join the pride walk this year in Kolkata, some of whom were part of the Pride walk in Delhi as well.

Photo Credit: Kaushik Gupta

To these young students, their reason for participation was very clear – to resist the attack on identity. Personal identity today is at supreme risk under the current regime. It is not just about the “other” gender and the “other” sexuality. Dalit students, underprivileged women, and people with disabilities across the country are being harassed in the name of the State. The fight for justice for Rohit Vemula to the fight for Justice for Tara, all seem to be emerging as the consistent voices of state oppression, and it is high time that all movements reflect upon the inclusivity of their agitations. The huge number of new faces in the walk this year and a lot of different agendas coming under the same event is what made the pride walk in Kolkata so very pertinent.

While on one hand, I find more and more people signing petitions for pushing the Right of Person with Disabilities Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha, the movement towards Article 377, (not just as “gay sex law” but as a law that violates the basic rights of any human including heterosexuals) grows stronger day by day. On the other hand, the strong voice of students’ rights to freedom of speech getting more and more reflected outside the campus assimilating with the emerging picture of mass movement in Kashmir.

I am a heterosexual, non-disabled, middle-class, urban woman. Each of the labels that I have added to my identity are so called “comfortable” identifies for social inclusion. Then

why do I talk about Gender and sexuality rights?

Why do I participate in Pride Walk?

Why do I show my support for the disability rights movement?

Why I was looking up to each of the “anti-national” YouTube classes that took place in the administration block in JNU a few months back?

Photo Credit: Kaushik Gupta

Because at the core of all these issues are violations of human rights, not matter how different they may look. My activism is to champion each of the causes from a perspective of addressing discrimination that has become symbolic of the current state hegemony. It is not about how I feel, but rather it is amazing to know how this feeling is common in many of us.

Today I feel that the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2016 has grown beyond the symbolic colours it represents. It is slowly and steadily becoming a people’s movement and a strong voice of opposition against the state violence. This strong message I expect to be well heard as we all are realizing that we are currently in a very critical time of history.