Questions on homosexuality are routinely posed to those who support RSS, such questions are not posed often enough to Islamists and their apologists.
Consensual homosexual acts must be decriminalised: That was the clear and unequivocal position of the Sah-Sarkaryavaha, or the joint general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Dattatreya Hosbaleji in March 2016.
This is a paradigm shift from the position that the RSS has taken in the past, notably after the Naz Foundation verdict came out in July 2009. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then with the Supreme Court reversing the judgement of the Delhi High Court even as it later agreed to hear the present batch of petitions under immense pressure from activists.
But the fact that the RSS has made a conscious decision to revisit its original position also says a lot about how it is not as hidebound an organisation as its detractors claim it to be. It may also not be a bad idea for the LGBT community in India (quite a few of whom are proud Hindus) to revisit as to who their true friends are if they care.
For the RSS, the only non-negotiable thing is patriotism and duty towards the nation. But even as questions on homosexuality are routinely posed to those who support the RSS, such questions are not posed often enough to Islamists and their apologists in India.
After the pathbreaking judgment in 2009, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid as well as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli opposed the verdict and supported the criminalisation of homosexuality.
It is about time we ask them if they have revisited their position or if they are still under the influence of the immutable tenets of their scriptures. The same question should be put to the leaders of the Kashmir ‘resistance’ like Syed Ali Shah Geelani who have constantly held the position mirrored by the likes of Abul A’la Maududi that ‘Islam’ is a moral and political code.
Similar questions need to be asked of self-styled leaders of the LGBT movement who wish to make common cause with Kashmiri separatists and Islamists to spearhead ‘resistance’ against the ‘oppressive’ and ‘fascist’ Indian state.
It is a fact that ancient Indian attitudes and mores were receptive to the idea of homosexuality. Before the Indian Penal Code was promulgated by Lord Macaulay, which included Section 377, no ancient Indian criminal code prohibited homosexuality and consensual homosexual acts. Section 377 does not even criminalise homosexuality per se but is often used as a tool to harass members of the LGBT community and other sexual minorities. We would welcome it if the Supreme Court corrects this anomaly. Those who are familiar with ancient Indian erotic sculptures would also be well aware that homosexual love was celebrated in India in ancient as well as early medieval times.
It was only after the advent of the Turkic invaders that social attitudes towards homosexuality started to change. In all pagan societies across the world including Hellenic, Chinese, as well as Japanese cultures, homosexuality and its various manifestations were not only tolerated but also celebrated. It is high time that all of this was recognised. We must also acknowledge that Hindu society’s celebration of homosexuality is something that has a continuity with its past. This is something that the RSS has come to accept and recognise– from the earlier pronouncements of calling it an import of Western lifestyle into India.
It is heartening that a national consensus seems to have started to build as far as the question of decriminalisation of homosexuality is concerned. It is rather unfortunate that not enough tough questions are being asked of those who are not yet part of that national consensus. The media would be remiss in the performance of its duties if it does not do so now. It can and should haul the RSS over hot coals when it feels that a position taken by it is not correct. However, reserving the questions only for the RSS while treating others with kid gloves raises suspicion of partisanship.
Raghav Awasthi is an advocate and an RSS member.
Read Global Pulse for a sampler of the big international stories, and why they matter.