Monday, July 14, 2014

Kolkata queer pride roots for 365 without 377

Happenings, Clickhappy! Jul '14 (update 1)
Pawan Dhall and Kaushik Gupta on the ‘13th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’, July 13, 2014, which protested the piecemeal granting of rights to queer people by the Supreme Court of India

The run-up to the '13th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk' began with a poster making
and slogan writing workshop at WBVHA Towers on June 15, 2014.
Photo credit (above and below): Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival

Next stop: Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival fund raiser party
for the walk at Hotel Blue Moon, July 5, 2014.
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Panelists at a pre-walk media conference called by the Kolkata Rainbow Pride
Walk Organizing Committee at the Academy of Fine Arts on July 10, 2014 (from
left to right): Madhuja Nandi, trans woman activist; Kaushik Gupta, Calcutta
High Court advocate; Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman and Poushali Basak,
both gender and sexuality rights activists. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Madhuja Nandi drove home the point that the Supreme Court had contradicted
itself in the matter of the rights of queer people. While its stand on Section 377,
Indian Penal Code criminalized queer people on the grounds of their sexual
preferences, its recent judgment on transgender identities gave one section
of queer people the right to gender self-determination and associated
socio-economic benefits. This piecemeal approach would create divisions
among queer communities, and it would not benefit trans persons either:
"What would be the use of earning a lot of wealth as a trans person, if I can't
have sexual relations that provide me fulfillment with the partner of my choice?"

Preparations in full swing for the '13th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk' on
the morning of July 13, 2014. Photo credit: Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival. 

Participants gather at the starting point of the walk at Triangular Park in
southern Kolkata. Apart from Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal,
the walk also attracted participation from Delhi, Gujarat, Manipur and Odisha.
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

The start of the walk was a wet affair, with more umbrellas than posters
and banners. But the pouring rain could not dampen the enthusiasm.
Photo credits (above and below): Pawan Dhall

As the walk made its way from Triangular Park to Jodhpur Park (EEDF Hospital)
via Gariahat, Dhakuria and Jadavpur Thana, the sun came out and so did
pithy posters and smart slogans. Photo credit (above and below): Kaushik Gupta

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

"Meye te meye te prem hoyechhe, besh hoyechhe, besh hoyechhe!"
(A slogan in Bengali celebrating love between women).
All photo credits here onwards: Pawan Dhall

Music and dance reverberated through the walk!

A change in the route directed by the police on the eve of the walk (to avoid a
clash with an event involving West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee)
meant that the walk turned south from Gariahat crossing instead of north
towards Park Circus. This was the first time the 'Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk'
literally crossed a bridge (Dhakuria Bridge), though it has crossed
many figurative and emotional ones!  

Walk volunteers Arunabha Hazra and Suchandra Ganguly pose with
advocate Kaushik Gupta. 


The walk turnout was about 500, the media turnout was no less impressive.
But where was most of the media gaze directed to? Perhaps the quality of
media coverage of the walk will reveal that. This issue is discussed after
every walk, and yet an effective media advocacy strategy remains
to be worked out by the Kolkata queer community.

The walk ended near EEDF Hospital in Jodhpur Park with closing speeches
by queer activists. Minakshi Sanyal of Sappho for Equality talked about
the first ever state level consultation on rehabilitation and welfare of the
transgender community called by the West Bengal State Resource Centre
for Women on July 15, 2014. She reminded everyone that the transgender
community also includes trans men (female-to-male transgender people)
and their welfare also has to be prioritized.

This brought about a successful closure to the 'Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk
2014' season after three months of hectic discussions, planning and action.

A video of the media conference organized by the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk Organizing Committee at the Academy of Fine Arts can be seen here:

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

Kaushik Gupta is a lawyer by profession, a photographer by passion.

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