Denied march, Bengaluru sees LGBTQ community ‘ride with pride’ this year

Celebrating the 15th year of Namma Pride, this year’s theme revisited Bengaluru and India’s queer history and movement.

ByTania Thomas

Published Nov 28, 2022 | 6:10 PMUpdated Nov 28, 2022 | 6:19 PM

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Namma Pride was celebrated in all its glory at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on Sunday, 27 November.

Even though the community was not allowed to march, as has been the norm for the last 15 years, that did not dampen the spirit or affect the turnout.

Not granted permission by the police to hold the customary march this year due to a ruling by the Karnataka High Court that banned all rallies and processions, the community gathered at Freedom Park.

Thereafter, BMTC buses were arranged to take everyone to the Samsa Open Air Theatre, where performances were held.

Though “shunned to a corner” — being permitted to gather only at a designated place for protests — at Freedom Park, the participants packed the ground, with each person flaunting their gender and sexual identity through their attire.

More people were seen attending the pride this year as compared to the last two years.

With face masks, face paintings, flags, props, quirky posters, sloganeering, and dancing in the shared joy of being able to express themselves completely in the open this one time of the year, they allowed nothing to get in the way of their celebration.

‘Not allowed to march but we will ride with pride’

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Priyank Sukanand, who was one of the organisers of the Pride and a member of the Campaign for Sex Workers & Sexual Minorities (CSMR), said they followed the ruling as well as challenged it in their own way.

“We are a peaceful group of people expressing our gender identities and sexuality. It’s very disappointing that there is a blanket ruling by the Karnataka HC against all processions. We are following the rules but nobody can silence us. We will still be here in Freedom Park, we will still sloganeer, we will dance and celebrate our sexuality. We will board buses. We are not allowed to march but we will ride with pride. We will get on to the buses, dance in the buses, get down in signals and distribute pamphlets because that’s who we are. We want to state that we are here to stay and we are queer,” said Priyank as he cheered on.

Dhruv, who was seen adorning a gorgeous sari and posing as a diva, said they would make the most of the situation.

“I have been part of pride for a very long time. Even when it was illegal, I was marching and we are going to continue to be here every time. The pride is within us, it’s not just one day of the year it’s all year round,” they added.

Looking back at 15 years of Pride

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Namma Pride has always had a theme every year. This year the focus was on revisiting queer history. All pre-pride events looked back at the battles the community has fought to date.

Art exhibitions were held, with some archival materials put on display. These included police permission letters from 15 years ago, some of the dharnas that happened, like “Justice for Kokila”, and the first petition for NAAZ.

“All the events commemorate the 15 years of Pride in Bengaluru and 25 years of the LGBTQ+ movement in India. We have given local names for each event because we are appealing to the local people before appealing to everyone else. Looking back at the queer history is important because before society understands what we are going through, the community also needs to know what got us here,” explained Priyank.

Demands raised by the community

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

Participants at the Bengaluru Pride event on Sunday, 27, November, 2022. (Supplied)

“Nanna deha nanna hakka (My body, my rights)”, “1,2,3,4 open up the closet door, 5, 6, 7, 8, don’t assume
your kids are straight “, “My body, my choice”, “My gender, my choice”, “My sexuality, my choice”, and other
sloganeering was heard at Freedom Park.

Even though Section 377 of the IPC has been repealed, there are several basic rights the community still fights for.

From the recognition of those who identify as non-binary to legalising same-sex marriage, there are several demands raised by the community.

“It is important to identify the non-binaries among us. In the IT [information technology] world of Bengaluru, where everything is binary in code, there are no binaries in real life. It is important to recognise the understanding of pronouns and how people would like to be identified. Let’s make the world a comfortable place for everyone,” said Dhruv.

Speaking about wanting basic civil rights, Alok said, “We want our basic rights, like getting the recognition in civil union, or recognition of marriage. Many civil rights are tied to it, right from property inheritance to being a direct nominee in the insurance policy. These things do keep us from being settled mentally and these civil rights matter a lot in the long run.”

Namma Pride 2022 demands

The demands raised at the 2022 Pride event include:

  • The directive by the Karnataka High Court denying permission to protests should be withdrawn.
  • The Karnataka State Policy of 2017 should be implemented with immediate effect. All gender and sexual identities should be allowed self-identification, irrespective of their medical or surgical status.
  • The Karnataka government should allocate a portion of its budget to transgender policies.
  • Employment and anti-discrimination laws should be enforced with zero tolerance and robust redressal systems as directed by the Transgender Person’s (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019.
  • Compulsory sexual identity education should be implemented at all levels in the state and educational institutions.
  • A 1 percent reservation for transgender persons should be implemented across government departments.
  • Violence against sex workers, following the decriminalisation of sex work, should be addressed at the earliest.
  • State and Central governments should implement the 2018 Navtej Singh Johar SC judgment and initiate sensitisation programmes on gender and sexuality for all public services.
  • The juvenile justice policy should be made gender-inclusive.
  • The Central government should create public awareness about the IPC Section 377 judgment, and break its silence on a multitude of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.