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India's LGBTQ Community Accuses Prime Minister of Hypocrisy Over His ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ for Orlando

Categories: South Asia, India, Citizen Media, Development, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, LGBTQ+, Politics
Bengaluru Queer Pride Parade 2009 Image from Flickr by Vinayak Das. CC BY 2.0 [1]

Bengaluru Queer Pride Parade 2009. Image from Flickr by Vinayak Das. CC BY 2.0

The massacre [2] in a gay club in the American city of Orlando on June 12, 2016, left 49 people dead and 53 injured. In India, numerous rights groups staged peaceful marches [3] to stand in solidarity with the victims of the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in the US.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi also offered his condolences and condemned the shooting in a tweet, surprising the LGBTQ community, who don't view him as much of an ally.

Many activists rightly pointed out, however, that Modi refrained from mentioning the term LGBTQ in the tweet:

In India, violence against sexual and gender minorities, who face death threats [5], attacks and social marginalisation, is a grave problem. In 2009, a landmark judgement by the Delhi High Court decriminalized [6]consensual homosexual relationships between adults, annulling Section 377 [7] of the Indian Penal Code, which was adopted into the Indian Constitution by the Imperial British empire in 1861. It considered gay sex “unnatural” or “against the order of nature.”

Consequently, several appeals were filed with the Supreme Court of India, challenging the Delhi High Court judgement [8]. The Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court's judgment on December 11, 2013, ruling [9] that the judgment was incorrect. The issue remains suspended, caught between court and parliament. The ruling right-wing government Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) [10] refuses to amend the law.

‘You think LGBT people are safe in India?’

Social media users went after Modi for refusing to acknowledge that the Orlando attack targeted the LGBTQ community.

Sir, it was a gay nightclub.

Rachita argued Modi's tweets weren't sincere.

Some condemned Modi's lack of empathy towards the LGBTQ community:

While others called him a hypocrite.

‘I have never felt more betrayed’

Sakshan Bhatnagar described [22] on Facebook how hurtful he thought Modi's tweet was:

Narendra Modi, you murder the victims of the Orlando shooting a second time by refusing to acknowledge that they were killed because they were LGBT. Would it have reduced your shock or sorrow to speak of the root cause of shooting, the homophobia we in india still call our culture?

Filmmaker and screenplay writer Apurva Asrani, whose previous film Aligarh [23] dealt with the subject of homosexuality, wrote an open letter to Modi. He questioned [24]:

While your words seemed kind and compassionate, I would like you to know, sir, that they shook me up. I have never felt more betrayed. Your 110 character tweet was missing five important characters. Five characters that would reveal a truth that your government is refusing to acknowledge-LGBTQ’!

The Orlando shooting took place in a gay club. Those that perished were all members of the LGBTQ community. You surely know sir, that LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people. It is an umbrella term for a people with an alternative sexual orientation. We exist not just in the United States and the rest of the world, but in India too.

And speaking with news site First Post, transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi called [25]out Indian government and said, “I, again, tell Narendra Modi [26] to act upon the entire basis of democracy that India is built upon and to own our own people in our own country and make them safe.”