Skip to main content

Mumbai: Demand to withdraw 'BJP-inspired' sedition charges against 51 trans persons

Counterview Desk
In a "solidarity" statement, Labia - A Queer Feminist Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LBT) Collective, has taken strong objection to sedition charges levelled against a young trans person and 50 unidentified persons for a slogan in a peaceful gathering, pointing out, such targeting against TBT community makes their lives even more vulnerable.
Suggesting that things became worse after a video calling this person as “anti-national” was shared by ex-BJP MP Kirit Somaiya and ex-CM, Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, the Collective said in a statement, "We feel great despair and rage at the ways in which this young trans person was made unsafe" following a "pride gathering", regretting, this has happened also at the best "fellow queer people."

Text:

On February 1, 2020, QAM (Queer Azaadi Mumbai, the organising body of the Mumbai Pride March) organised a Pride Solidarity gathering at Azad Maidan, in lieu of the Annual Pride March. 
During the gathering, several people raised slogans against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) while several others raised slogans to show solidarity with the multiple protests and sit-ins happening all over the country, including the one at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.
The three hour long gathering saw many speeches about issues affecting the Queer Community. There was poetry and skits and the Preamble of the Constitution was read out.
A few hours after the gathering, certain slogans were deemed questionable and anti-national by some people, and the videos captured of these slogans were released on the internet and social media. It is important to note that no one objected to the slogans during the gathering or stopped any of the slogans.
Also, no untoward incident of any kind resulted from the sloganeering. In fact, the person being held responsible for giving these slogans was called on stage to read the Preamble of the Constitution towards the end of the programme. The whole gathering followed their lead in reading the Preamble aloud.
On the next day after the gathering, some members of the organising body i.e. QAM spoke up against the raising of such slogans and issued statements outing, deadnaming and misgendering a young trans student. Subsequent to this, QAM also issued a statement distancing themselves from what happened at Azad Maidan and extending their full support and cooperation to the Azad Maidan Police.
This was accompanied by a vociferous social media blitz by some queer persons as well as politicians to target the people in the video as “anti-national”, and in fact asked for the person to be arrested. Ex-BJP MP Kirit Somaiya and ex-CM, Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, picked up on this and shared it, thus amplifying this narrative of vilification with direct appeals to the Mumbai Police to act on the same.
Taking note of all this, the Azad Maidan Police filed charges, including that of sedition, against this one identified trans student and 50 other unnamed people alleged to have taken part in the said sloganeering. As on February 5, 2020, the Sessions Court in Mumbai has denied anticipatory bail to the person first named. Few others have now been summoned to the Azad Maidan police station to give statements.
Sedition is a serious charge. What transpired at Azad Maidan does not qualify as sedition by any definition of the term. We must also recall that the sedition laws were a tool used by the British Raj to curb dissent and muzzle free speech. Several freedom fighters including Gandhi and Tilak were incarcerated under the same. A democratic republic like India has no justification to still have such laws.
The Law Commission in several of its reports has called for repealing the law, finding no place for it in a democratic society. The Supreme Court has also noted that sedition laws cannot be utilised to muzzle free speech. However the Government of this democratic country continues to utilise this oppressive colonial law in the same manner as the colonial government, towards squashing dissent of all kinds.
The actions of some of the queer community members in the city has only put many other queer lives in peril
The number of people charged with sedition has been going up since 2017. This is a clear sign that the current Government is using this draconian law to stop people from questioning it. The most recent and glaring use of this has been on the nine year olds hailing from Bidar district, Karnataka, who put up a school play against the CAA and NRC.
Many others such as Akhil Gogoi and his comrades in Assam, JNU student Sharjeel Imam, and hundreds of ordinary citizens in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere across the country have been unfairly charged under the draconian sedition law and arrested for arbitrary reasons.
In fact, the slogans raised by the persons at the Mumbai Pride solidarity gathering were precisely against this kind of targeting of activists, students and ordinary citizens around the country for raising their voices and expressing dissent which is their fundamental right.
We also want to underline the fact how damaging and traumatising this whole process of naming, sharing their photos widely is for students in general but especially for young trans and queer persons. The lives of young trans and queer persons are difficult as is and many have perhaps not yet come out about their identity to those in their families or where they live.
This targeting of them, for a slogan given in a peaceful gathering, makes their lives multiply vulnerable. They might lose the financial or material support their families might be providing them, have to vacate houses they might be living in on rent, be targeted in public spaces as their names and faces have been splashed all over as “anti-national,” and much more. Their very survival is at risk.
It is in this context that we feel great despair and rage at the ways in which this young trans person was made unsafe in their own space of a pride gathering, and that too by fellow queer people. It has been claimed that their acts, a single slogan given among many others, has endangered the whole Pride and the whole gathering.
This is far from the truth as the slogan in question was objected to only in hindsight and in fact caused no stress at the gathering. The subsequent actions of some of the queer community members in the city on the other hand have not only put many queer lives in peril but also colluded with the state in creating a chilling effect for many others beginning to claim a space within the diverse queer community.
We stand in solidarity with all the 51 persons who have been targeted in this case and demand that the charges against them be dropped immediately as baseless. We also urge the state government to recognise the organised targeting of these students by politicians for their gains and act immediately on the same.
We urge the media to sensitize themselves towards the specificities of the realities of trans and queer persons and report accordingly. We join in the voices across the country rallying against unjust laws and for the rights of all the people in the country, especially those marginalized by the current regime.

Comments

TRENDING

Importance of Bangladesh for India amidst 'growing might' of China in South Asia

By Samara Ashrat*  The basic key factor behind the geopolitical importance of Bangladesh is its geographical location. The country shares land borders with Myanmar and India. Due to its geographical position, Bangladesh is a natural link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.  The country is also a vital geopolitical ally to India, in that it has the potential to facilitate greater integration between Northeast India and Mainland India. Not only that, due to its open access to the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has become significant to both China and the US.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'BBC film shows only tip of iceberg': Sanjiv Bhatt's daughter speaks at top US press club

By Our Representative   The United States' premier journalists' organisation, the National Press Club (NPC), has come down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recent "attacks on journalists in India." Speaking at the screening of an episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” banned in India, in the club premises, NPC President Eileen O’Reilly said, “Since Modi came to power we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his regime has suppressed the rights of its citizens to a free and independent news media."

Regional political dynamics 'leading to' institutional violence in SAARC University

By Sandeep Pandey*  South Asian University is a university set up in Delhi by member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives – which is open to students from all these countries. However, as SAARC is receiving little attention these days because of regional political dynamics, it appears as if SAU has lost significance too. Because of the hiatus in peace process between India and Pakistan, the Board of Governors of this University is dysfunctional.

Natural farming: Hamirpur leads the way to 'huge improvement' in nutrition, livelihood

By Bharat Dogra*  Santosh is a dedicated farmer who along with his wife Chunni Devi worked very hard in recent months to convert a small patch of unproductive land into a lush green, multi-layer vegetable garden. This has ensured year-round supply of organically grown vegetables to his family as well as fetched several thousand rupees in cash sales.

Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das  Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.

Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Ban Ki-moon, others ask Bangladesh PM to 'protect' Yunus

Counterview Desk  A campaign has been launched to support Bangladesh-based economist, micro-finance guru and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, seeking signatures from citizens across the globe in order to “protect” his work, life and safety.

Electricity sharing opens up new window for India’s eastern neighbourhood engagement

By Sufian Asif* Today, challenges like climate change, pandemics, energy reliance, economic crisis, and many more are concerning us. No nation can overcome these obstacles without the assistance and collaboration of other nations. Most importantly, many of these problems have international repercussions. South Asia is facing much more difficulty when compared to other regions. In South Asia, we have some regional organizations, but they are ineffective.

'Vulgar display of wealth': Govt of India using G20 presidency for political, electoral gains

Counterview Desk  Seeking endorsement for a public statement on India's G20 Presidency, several people’s movements, trade unions and other civil society groups have come together to say that not only will G20 and its priorities “will worsen economic, social and climate crisis”, already, India’s presidency is being used “for vulgar display of pomp & for electoral gains.”