Open letter to India's new criminals

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 28, 2014 20:46 hrs

To everyone I have had pointless crushes on, shared sighing sessions over George Clooney with, played wing-woman for in bars, choked over coffee and alcohol with, and coaxed into training my boyfriends on when-to-say-what to me:

It appears that you will remain criminals.

Irrespective of who speaks up on television or magazine covers, irrespective of who changes their profile pictures on Facebook, irrespective of who marches with rainbow flags and who comes to power at the Centre, this country of which you apparently form a ‘miniscule minority’ has decided, today, to uphold a bizarre colonial rule.

But, I am not able to tell you I am sorry this happened.

I’m not able to tell you I’m sorry because I don’t see this as happening to you.

I wish I could respond to Facebook posts, or declare ‘We are with you’ and ‘We are as angry as you’ and ‘We will march with you in the streets’. I wish I could express remorse and contrition.

I can’t, because I don’t see this as ‘us’ and ‘you’. I am angry for two reasons – that a government acting on our behalf has denied you your rights for so long; and that five nebulous words – ‘against the order of nature’ – can circumscribe the limits of legality.

Yes, it so happens that I’m among the people who can have a recognised, legal wedding, and a recognised, legal marriage in this country.

But I’m also among the people who indulge in several things which are ‘against the order of nature’. In this country, every interracial marriage, every interreligious marriage, every live-in relationship, every public display of affection, every couple-holiday, every little thing which goes against a norm set by a nameless, faceless, numberless ‘majority’ is ‘against the order of nature’.

This is a country where no one is free to love.

You should know that this is not a fight that the LGBT community has a stake in. It’s a fight that every single one of us in this country has a stake in. All of us are fighting to be with the people we want to be with. All of us are fighting not just for legal acceptance, but for moral acceptance. We are all fighting not to be seen as freaks. We are fighting not to be asked probing, personal questions. We are fighting not to bring our bedrooms within the jurisdiction of this country.

I do recognise that there is an ‘us’ and ‘you’.

But I don’t know if the verdict of a court matters in a country where a woman can be legally raped by a man she is married to.

There is a more important verdict that is in your favour. There are a lot of us who are angry at having been deemed different from this ‘miniscule majority’. We are enraged, chagrined, frustrated, upset and mystified by the fact that a country that is technically run by its people, should choose to set you apart.

And, in the middle of all this, there is a victory that is crucial. It is that the idea of gay rights, and the idea of homosexuality, has finally started seeping into this country.

Recently, several voices have been heard that the media did not have space before – the voice of the person who believes his or her sexual orientation is his private business and that no one has a right to ask; the voice of the person who is confused about his or her sexual orientation; the voice of the person who is living a double life.

Ironically, as the law clamps down on your freedom, the country has recognised it. We have started feeling ashamed for the thoughtless things we may have said when we didn’t know enough, for the people who were teased in school, for the ugly things we didn’t object to, for not caring enough, for seeing you as different, for treating you as objects of curiosity.

Ironically, even as you are deemed criminals by law, you have become heroes for kissing in public and putting up those pictures – not just because you “showed them” on behalf of yourself, but on behalf of the entire population of a country caught in a time warp, where people can get arrested for making out in metro stations, and released after proving they are married.

Ironically, even as judges wave their rulebooks at you, people across the country have started to rethink their stances. People who grew up decades ago, in a world which was as black-and-white as the pages of an array of ‘holy’ books, have started noticing the grey areas. And these people are not just your parents, but all our parents and their parents. People are rethinking their prejudices because they cannot voice them to general approval anymore.

You are criminals today. And you may not be tomorrow. But all of us owe you for leading a fight that we have now realised is ours too. This country needs a jolt, because it is time we stopped raising eyebrows at people who get remarried, or pregnant out of wedlock, or fall in love with someone of the ‘wrong’ caste, ‘wrong’ religion, ‘wrong’ face and ‘wrong’ gender.

This is not about your rights. It’s about our rights. And whether the laws of this nation acknowledge our rights or not, we have claimed them. And that’s something we should celebrate. It’s taken long enough.

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book on