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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 23 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 21
Indian election: Disaster for LGBT community
Section One
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Indian election: Disaster for LGBT community

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The landslide victory of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India's month-long general election was a disaster for the governing Congress Party, but an even greater disaster for the country's LGBT community.

BJP leader and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long opposed legal protections for LGBT Indians. During the election, a group of Modi supporters handed out bumper stickers bearing the message 'Who will you choose? Cow protection or Gay protection.' The stickers feature a portrait of Narendra Modi as well as the BJP's lotus flower symbol.

Although only the small reform party, Aam Aadami, campaigned for LGBT rights, Indian human rights activists denounced the stickers on social media.

'Because cows are important to our economy and humans aren't,' one person Tweeted. 'A preview of what's coming...no more vdays no pubs no short dresses for girls no freedom,' another said, referring to BJP's well-known Puritanism.

'If Narendra Modi doesn't approve of this hate mongering by his party members, he should come clean against it,' LGBT activist Harish Iyer said. 'A prime ministerial candidate who cannot take a stand for minorities, when his own party men make caustic homophobic remarks is a threat to humanity. His silence implies that he stands against the tenets of equal rights for all citizens of the nation.'

But BJP party president Rajnath Singh did not retreat from the party's anti-Gay stance. In fact, Singh emphasized during the election campaign that the party supports recriminalization of Gay sex. India's Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that same-sex relations were constitutionally protected, but the court reversed itself in December last year.

Even more worrisome is BJP's association with the most thuggish elements of India's extreme right, the paramilitary Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. It was an RSS member who assassinated Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 for advocating equal rights for India's Muslim minority, and Modi is reportedly a lifetime member of the group.

In fact, Indian Muslims may have even more to fear from Modi and the RSS than Gay people. As governor of Gujarat state since 2001, Modi has been accused of inflaming tensions between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. In 2002 RSS members rioted, murdering perhaps 1,000 Muslims, but Modi did nothing to stop them or protect Muslim citizens.

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