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Number 12- Censorship

Editorial, June 2009

Dear Friend and Reader,

I write to you today, knowing that somewhere we have common cause, even if we are widely divergent in our views and work. I write to you as I write to a part of myself that I haven’t met yet. I write to you with the hope that in articulating what has been so far a deep unease, barely discernible as thought, I will find more room to breath.

It has been a most incredible, even breathtaking year for us queers in this country. The currents that were slowly gathering energy (from the efforts of many groups and individuals) and visibility for the last decade, shot up in spectacular bursts of colour in the pride parades that happened in several cities last year. This year two more cities, Chennai and Bhubaneshwar, join Kolkata (and there people have been marching several years now), Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.

The media played its parts with increased stakes and commitment and contributed to not just sustained visibility during and after the 377 case hearings, but also took time and care to carry the nuances of our arguments and concerns. And queers in the media constituted the QMC (Queer Media Collective) awards in recognition of this growing partnership.

The arguments in the case hearings had all the power of reason, humanity and justice on one side. When the lawyers argued the case, even those of us, who were familiar with the arguments, felt touched by their rightness and the lines of reasoning. Much hope rests on the judgement that is due any day now.

Besides all of these, which were on public platforms, there were several consultations and meetings, some planned, several spontaneous, which led to these and other not so visible actions. In fact, it is this growing and only intermittently visible, largely unsung work that a lot of people in diverse places have been doing that has brought us today to a collective space that is freer, visible, and more full of hope than it has ever been before. The election results have added their own measure of optimism as well.

It is precisely in this time of hope and passion, when all cities are gearing up to have pride marches and queer events, that we need to sit back for a moment to reflect upon the enormity of our tasks and the responsibilities time entails on us. This is the time to do a reckoning of our politics and our directions. It is time for us to evaluate our work and to more carefully calibrate our course.

This summer we saw a massive gathering of public protest all over the country (and even internationally) over Dr. Binayak Sen's two-year-long imprisonment under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act without any proof, without almost any case. Finally the Supreme Court granted him bail on 25 May, 2009. While we may not as the queer movement/s have responded to this, several groups and individuals were part of these protests. This fight for civil liberties has been an important one and as and when the case continues, it will be for us to decide how and in what measure we are able to be part of it.

The right to dissent, to be able to express it, and to have civil rights and fair redressal  systems are intrinsic to democracies, and as we, queer people, fight to have our rights and voices recognised, as we fight the stigma of criminalisation and the wrongs of discrimination, we have to reflect on how effectively and strongly we are able to ally with other such struggles for rights and freedoms.

This is not a new idea or strategy. Our various coalitions in different cities show how strongly (or not) we have been able to work with other progressive movements. The more we ally with other groups and add our voices (collective and individual) to other ongoing struggles for rights and justice, the stronger our politics and struggles will become. The fight for civil liberties is our fight, the fight for land and control over resources is our fight, the fight against divisive and communal forces is our fight, the fight against patriarchy is our fight, the fight against the caste system and its oppressiveness is our fight…. This is not a place to list all our commonalities, but a plea that we have even more discussions among us on each of these concerns and more.

Our freedoms are not singular, and neither are our identities. We are queer, but we are also men, women, transgenders, hijras; we are also people being thrown out of our jobs because of corporate takeovers; we are people from different castes, regions and communities; we are people with disabilities; we are people losing our lands to development schemes or SEZ plans; we are people spending endless time filling water for our families; we are still being forced to marry against our wills; we are citizens of this country, struggling to survive and fighting for our rights.

Let us remind ourselves of this again and again when we sit down and make our action plans and strategies. Let us raise our voices for freedom and justice with all those who are doing the same. Let us not ally with any force that seeks to divide and take freedom from some who they term a minority. Let us strengthen our fights as we join to strengthen others, within and around.

We face discrimination, censorship and violence daily for who we are and what we stand for. And because looking the beast unflinchingly in the eye may be one way of starting to tame it, we bring you this issue on censorship, with pieces that map the censorships that the state does, societies and custom do, and also what we do to ourselves, as we try to lead our queer lives evenly in the face of so many odds. This is one of those special Scripts issues for which submissions were invited not only from queer women but everyone; the poems and ruminations of several contributors have added substance – and spice – to the volume at hand. We begin with a few milestones of the past year that point to some of the directions in which we have been moving.

As always, we look forward to your feedback.

With hope and love,

Shalini (for the editorial team)