Representatives of several Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex groups and academics have written to The Independent, expressing concern about suspected far-right activists posing as queer individuals at a recent event in London and defending the Indian government’s crackdown in Jammu and Kashmir.
The event, titled “Resisting Fascism building Solidarities – India: Kashmir and beyond”, was organised at the School of Oriental and African Studies University by the South Asia Solidarity Group on October 5, according to India Today. Five men wearing balaclavas and carrying a rainbow flag that said “Gay for J&K”, “[Article] 370 is homophobic”, and “Regressive Left, don’t betray us” disrupted the event. The protestors alleged that people against Kashmir’s special constitutional status were homophobic, and argued that its removal meant that the queer community would have the same rights in the state as other minorities.
“As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer [LGBT+] activists, academics and community members, we oppose fascism in all its forms,” read the letter published on Monday. “While often the far right is blatantly oppressive of LGBT+ people as well as women, occasionally it uses the tactic of ‘pinkwashing’, pretending that mistreating other minorities somehow makes us freer and safer.”
The signatories said far-right extremists employ this tactic to portray religious and racial minorities as “backward” and propagate the idea that “LGBT+ people and women need to be ‘rescued’” by them. “But no rainbow flag can long conceal the macho violence and abuse of power which lies behind this,” they added.
Professor Dibyesh Anand of the University of Westminster, who chaired the event, was among the signatories. Other activists and public figures such as Savitri Hensman of the London Black Lesbian and Gay Centre, All India Queer Association’s founder Meghna Mehra, and academic and Newham Councillor Rohit K Dasgupta also signed the statement.
The signatories pointed out that the Indian Supreme Court had decriminalised gay sex last year by striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and legal experts said it applied to Jammu and Kashmir as well. The decriminalisation of same-sex relationships was largely the work of human rights activists and “not the efforts of ruling party politicians such as Subramanian Swamy, who believe that homosexuality is a genetic disorder and threat to national security”, the letter added.
The signatories said that while military presence and a social media shutdown had left LGBT-plus Kashmiris feeling isolated, the “grim situation is being spun as in their interests”.
“We urge people of goodwill not to be taken in by ‘pinkwashing’ wherever it occurs but rather to support LGBT+ struggles for justice, democracy and human rights for all,” they added in conclusion.
‘Masked group of RSS people’
After the commotion at the event in London, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, who was on the discussion panel, had claimed that the protestors were a “masked group of RSS people masquerading as LGBTQ activists”.
However, later in the week, the protestors denied they were affiliated either to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Bharatiya Janata Party. “We are boys and girls from the from the LGBT community of British Asian and non-Indians/Non Residential Indian descent who wanted to put their point of view on the day but were chased out,” one protestor told India TV.
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