Delhi University elections are one of the major students’ elections of the country, DU as a political space is one of the most prominent spaces in India. Most of the current or former politicians were once student leaders in their respective states. This makes us understand the importance of student elections. However, DU is yet to see a queer office bearer. Over the years, DU’s politics is becoming more and more caste and money-oriented. Elections in DU are more about money and muscle power than issue-based politics.
In contrast to this, AUD and JNU set examples of issue-based politics during their students’ elections. For DUSU, student wings affiliated to big parties focus on organizing trips to water parks, distributing movie tickets, organising fresher parties, etc to gather votes instead of raising prominent student issues. These are the parties that are thought to most likely to win. DUSU is a reflection of mainstream politics as they focus on the methods to win elections more than the reasons to win elections.
It is notable that most of the student wings in DU do not cater to the needs of the queer community and speaks up about the community during special occasions like valentines’ day or pride month. Having queer representatives become more necessary than ever before as homophobia, transphobia is on an all-time high during the pandemic.
I contested two elections during my graduation at SPM College, Punjabi Bagh which was a learning experience. My experience taught me many things including how most of the people try to use sexual orientation as an excuse to attack, troll, and harass queer people. The heteronormativity in Delhi University lives queer community vulnerable. Many women development cells and societies make efforts to keep the campuses inclusive such as Dyal Singh College, Hansraj College to name a few but in most of the Delhi university colleges, the reality still differs. For many of my voters, my orientation didn’t matter, what mattered is how much work I have done and how much more I can do if I got elected. But for my opponents, it was an opportunity to rumor monger and make personal attacks. Having cis privileges and not being visibly queer somewhere favoured me and it speaks volumes about how those who do not have same privileges as me will suffer on the campuses due to lack of acceptance, casteism, and other forms of oppression
My interaction with fellow queer students of campuses also varies. Those in well off colleges had to face the least homophobia while those who were in off-campus colleges faced it the most and were more likely to stay in the closet. While starting AIQA, the All India Queer Association, I focused on making state units instead of college units to connect all people from all colleges as a whole. colleges in some states do not hold elections and campaigning there for queer issues becomes an uphill task. Another part of my experience was how fellow queers look up to each other in the time of need. Contesting elections meant bringing pride to our community, to have our voices heard, to create a bigger table for everyone to sit together. Being queer and an activist on campus also brought acceptance and awareness for the community, and helps in identifying homophobes in campus.
The common issues for our community remain the same, lack of acceptance, bullying and harassment, lack of campus assistance for studies and placements, casteism, class hatred, sexism, moral policing to name a few. Unionizing the community through AIQA made me realize how intersections within the community are needed to be identified and respected.
Apart from student politics, mainstream politics also need queer representation, not only on streets but also in parliament. Issues like unemployment, poverty, the disease affect queer people too but our issues have their roots in discrimination against us.
For example, the current Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act does not have reservations for trans individuals in educational institutions which could have uplifted many lives. There is an erasure of other identities too as they aren’t considered in the act itself.
The approach in managing the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t focusing on combating discrimination against queer patients.
There is no policy for the Hijra community’s economical empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harassment and domestic violence towards queer people are rising during the healthcare crisis and it is not even acknowledged by the current government.
There is a high probability that our issues would have been raised if people from our community were holding public office. I am not advocating voting for someone because they are queer, I am advocating support queer leaders who can make a difference by holding public office. Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community is a barrier that we all can shatter by being together and supporting each other. Policies for the community along with adding intersections in the pre-existing policies and acts can help the community better. To have a better approach during the decision-making process, it becomes important to have people who will be affected by those decisions involved. Each state has some set of common issues when it comes to queer community but they also have different issues that need to be raised, acknowledge, and sorted at the local level. Last year we launched “queer manifesto” around 2019 elections demanding attention to basic issues of our community. It helped many parties understand what we want.