The LGBTQ students group, ‘Spectra’ of Pondicherry University organised a pride march and walked through the streets of Pondicherry, starting at the infamous Gender Gate that separated the boys’ and girls’ hostels.
Post the decriminalisation of Section 377 (of the Indian Penal Code) Judgement, by the Supreme Court of India, the students at Pondicherry Uni. organised their first ‘Pondicherry Pride March’ on September 28th, 2018, celebrating the judgment. While planning was in full swing, an unfortunate incident happened on the night between the 18th and 19th September, wherein unidentified individuals defaced the posters.
This semester, the word “pride” has been an exciting one for the students of Pondicherry University in Kalapet. The march was one of its kind where the students from this 30-year-old institution, marched together as equals, celebrating diversity and walking with their identities as badges of honour.
Spectra is a student support group that was formed to increase awareness about the queer community. The body is unregistered and is a completely student-funded group, with no defined hierarchies or membership requirements. The pride march was organised to address the many hardships queer folks face in the country.
Armed with the emotion: “we will sing, dance, rage and love– with the hope that our passion and resolve will contribute to a more welcoming campus for all”, they began their march.
Students participated in many events that were conducted in the course of organising the march. Through events like an open poster drawing session, the students discussed their experiences and dealt with questions pertaining to gender, sex and sexuality. In accordance with the aim of Spectra, this was a major need to be addressed on the campus, as sexism and other kinds of phobias against people not conforming to the female-male binary and heterosexuality exist.
With women participation outnumbering the men, as many as 200 students participated in the pride. This was rather uncommon when it came to political events in Pondicherry University. There were many songs, a wide range of topics were addressed, like, discriminatory actions by the university administration, denial of access to WiFi for more than one and a half years in Aurobindo (hostel temporarily allotted to women) and fencing of only the Girls’ Hostels.
A large number of student organisations also supported the march even though Spectra PU is not affiliated to any political party.
Despite the huge success of the march, there were a lot of problems that the organising committee had to face. The problems started with the University administration delaying granting of permission for the event for more than 12 days. They were later ordered not to “indulge in any political activities [or] talk about any religion, caste or community,” and in the course of the pride, ‘outsiders’ were stopped from attending the event; the organisers of the pride were even asked to submit a video recording of the entire event.
At the time of the pride, the Pondicherry International Film Festival was going on, which was happening at the university’s main auditorium to which, “outsiders” had access to. This was after the order that they gave where they would not allow “outsiders” to enter.
Many of the people were unfamiliar with the administrative policies in the university and the possible repercussions. The organising committee had to make many changes. Women were shouted at; there was disruption and chaos.
Despite these issues, the organising committee of Spectra considers the Pride, a grand success. “This was the first time I got an opportunity to take part in a pride march and I am happy that I could be there. Amidst the difficulties caused due to the administration the crowd that turned up for the event made it a great experience. I never expected it could be organised here,” said Ashish James, a student of MA English, who took part in the Pride.
“I always found the energy contagious; finding fellow humans who together were expressing the freedom to love with no boundaries was an amazing experience,” said Divya who participated in such an event for the first time.
“It gives me immense happiness to be a part of the pride march and see people taking pride in themselves, waving rainbow flags, advocating gay pride and just flaunting who they are. It was a wonderful experience”, Jayshree Das said.