Mumbai

Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ community stages a colourful protest at Azad Maidan

Message of love: Around 3,000 people gather at Azad Maidan to participate in the Queer Azaadi Mumbai march on Saturday.

Message of love: Around 3,000 people gather at Azad Maidan to participate in the Queer Azaadi Mumbai march on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Despite being denied a parade, Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ community reclaims its spirit at Azad Maidan with a colourful protest

For the first time since 2008, Mumbai did not get to celebrate Pride with a march during the first weekend of February. Instead the community gathered to protest the denial of permissions at Azad Maidan on February 1 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

This year, the police denied permissions for political sloganeering. Instead Pride organisers, Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM), were suggested to hold the march at Azad Maidan. But the queer community couldn’t ignore the ongoing discourse on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). “The CAA and the NRC or any issue that affects anybody also affects queer people,” said Harish Iyer, equal rights activist and member of QAM.

Praful Baweja, a member of and Pride organiser at QAM, who is responsible along with others in securing necessary permissions for the Pride March said planning starts as early as September. On January 28, Baweja along with QAM members Tinesh Chopde and Saurabh Bondre were summoned to Gamdevi police station after a poster highlighting anti-CAA sentiments was spotted on social media. “We were shown a video of an impromptu protest at Nagpada where women sat without permissions,” said Baweja, adding that their personal documents like Aadhaar cards were scanned. “The police had intel that people would hijack the queer parade and talk about issues other than the ones affecting the community.”

Supporters and members of LGBT community participate in a Queer Azadi March 2020 at Azad Maidan in Mumbai,

Supporters and members of LGBT community participate in a Queer Azadi March 2020 at Azad Maidan in Mumbai,   | Photo Credit: Mitesh Bhuvad

From 3 p.m., hordes of people from the community and allies, including curious tourists and very amused bystanders began flocking the maidan. Approximately 3,000 people gathered in the dusty ground: several very colourfully dressed donning painted queer flags (trans, bi and gay) on their faces. In spite of the discomfort and the denial to celebrate Pride, members of the community stayed buoyant. On stage, Mr. Iyer called for unity, pride in self-expression and sexual orientation, reading out posters. such as one in Urdu, that said, “Mohabbat gunha nahi hai” (love is not a crime).

Amidst a sea of posters like ‘Jesus loves gays’ and ‘Free hugs’, several held banners condemning CAA. A special appeal was made to stay silent as a faction of people holding the Jai Bhim flag invited everyone to chant slogans of azaadi. ANAT, an all non-male theatre group, staged a street play likening fascists in power to rapists; while sex workers tried to erase the stigma of their work and call for unity.

A highlight was the arrival of a young queer gender-fluid person, Mx Ria Sharma, onstage with her parents who are members of Sweekar, a collective of supportive and accepting guardians of queer people. Mr. Sharma, Ria’s father, proudly declared, “Aap jaise bhi ho, ache ho, hamare bacche ho” (however you are, you are good and are our children).

While police officials took the parade away from Pride, they couldn’t completely cancel it in Mumbai.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:16:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/queer-pride-is-here-to-stay/article30716598.ece

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