I watched a riveting We the People programme anchored by Barkha Dutt on Dec 11. It was titled “What is Illegal about Love, Your Lordships?” and it dealt with Supreme Court’s ruling, criminalizing Gay Sex. Though I had an intellectual understanding of the issue, that programme helped me understand the enormous impact of that verdict.
For me, this ruling was at least as momentous as Aam Aadmi Party’s stirring performance in the Delhi elections. The election showcased the power of freedom where common people elected the party of their choice to rule them. Two Supreme Court judges, on the other hand, removed the freedom to choose their sexual preference from 50 million law abiding citizens in one mighty stroke.
I found it amazing so many gays came out into the open proclaiming to the world unabashedly their sexual preferences. Vulnerable as they are to public scrutiny and judgement, it was refreshing to see them standing up to be counted, exactly as they are .
I saw the play of emotions like I have rarely seen in any other programme of this nature.
Vikram Seth wondered how he, who till the previous day was a law abiding citizen, suddenly became a criminal, along with 50 million other citizens. I could see him seething inside with rage yet speaking his heart out with composure.
There were at least two men on the show who narrated how they nearly ended their lives, unable to take the taunts and pressures any more.
A grandmother spoke lovingly and with total acceptance of her grandson who is a gay. She expressed her wrath at the law and the judges for lack of compassion.
There were several parents who stood solidly behind their gay children, never mind what the society said. They are heroes, all of them.
A Catholic priest mouthed homilies about compassion for the sinner and dislike for the sin. He sounded holier than the Pope. I wonder why God creates some people inclined one way and then allows his interpreters on earth to call these people names.
When judgements do not affect us directly, it is not very easy to get into the skin of people who are affected, to feel their pain.
Yet, a person may die a thousand deaths to be labeled and publicly pronounced as a sexual deviant, a sinner, a criminal or products of the pernicious influence of the west.
When people are labeled thus, we steal from them the right to dignity they were born with and are conferred by the constitution.
That is why some people who were affected by the judgement wept openly in Barkha Dutt’s programme and elsewhere.
Probably, the law will not be enforced. Yet , that is not a consolation for the gay community which will feel isolated. And that will not make it any easier for them to hold their head high in this country of theirs. The judgement adds strength to the stigma attached to being a gay.
About nine years back, we had a gay employee in our company. He was extremely competent and creative in his job. Soon enough, word spread about his dalliance with men in the evening hours, after work. I asked him to leave. That is a decision I regret to this day – for not standing up to the pressure of public disapproval. I flowed with the current of public morality.
Immediately after the recent judgement, I heard opinions about paying heed to the voices of the majority. The truth is, respect for the peculiar expressions of a minority is essential for freedom and democracy to thrive. M.J Akbar put it beautifully in another context, in an article of his – minorities are the yeast in the national flour.
It is exactly a week since the verdict. The dust kicked up by the discussions and engagements did not last even three days. The B.J.P President has pronounced his verdict – that the Supreme Court ruling is right. And that such decadent practices are against the much vaunted traditions and civilisation of India.
Meanwhile, TV channels have other stories and events to keep its viewers in a state of eager anticipation. Thorny, uncomfortable issues last fleeting moments before the national consciousness.
As a nation, we whet our appetite from the titillation we derive from the ephemeral events of the day. The more of them, the merrier. We do not delve into them deep enough or long enough to allow their seepage into our consciousness.
We forget the causes and issues – like the difference between law and justice. Or the rights of every individual to hold his or her head high and chase passions and love.
It took just two honourable justices to brand about 50 million people as morally unsound and inferior and therefore, to take away their “so called rights” .
The judges, the priests, the mullahs and the self-righteous of our land are having a field day ushering in their morality.
2000 years ago, a very compassionate Jesus had the choicest of words to describe the scribes and the pharisees who were more concerned with the letter of the law than its spirit. “Fools, hypocrites, blind guides……”, were among the kinder epithets he used.
We haven’t traveled that far all these 2000 years. We still make laws devoid of justice and compassion.
Sometimes, morality stinks to the high heavens.