Olpo Jana Golpogulo/The Less Known Stories showcases the livelihood of trans – kothi, hijra, and gender variant people, training the lens on the lives of LGBTQ+ folks in marginalised spaces, far from metropolitan cities. In the light of the protests against the flawed and inadequate Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, it became pertinent to listen carefully to the voices of the community, setting up a conversation between their everyday lives and political activism around gender and sexuality.
The panelists included Meera Sanghamitra (Activist, National Alliance of People’s Movement), Sudarshana Chakraborty (Film Maker), and Sumi Das (Founder, Moitri Sanjog Collective). The panel was moderated by Vqueeramaditya Sahai (Independent Researcher).
In this talk the speaker interrogated the liberal assumption that human rights are the primary mechanism through which to secure freedom for disenfranchised, marginalized and stigmatized groups, and specifically LGBT people. She discussed how subjects come to be recognized in human rights discourse as experiencing injuries and harms that are deemed as unjust, reparable or remediable through rights – where freedom is directly equated with securing rights. Ratna examined the discursive operations of these interventions within and against already established normative and material frameworks; that is, against racial, cultural, sexual and civilizational differences that inform both the advocacy and the apparatus of international and postcolonial human rights.
She specifically examined how pursuits of human rights have an impact on precarious desires, and how these pursuits, while conferring recognition and legibility, not only reproduce the normative framework in which precarity and precarious identities are addressed, but also clearly incorporate the rights-seeking subject and illegible nonsubject within a space where freedom is strongly defined in terms of the market and consumer agency.
If our lives are stories, and our loves are lies, then our research must look at the tales, how they are built and who narrates them. Dhiren presented a weave of stories collated through my work with queer and non-dominant communities to highlight how in the context of LGBT folks in India, spaces are increasingly neither exclusively online nor offline, but are hybrid. Dhiren tried to explore queer possibilities in our desires and the queering of our cities within their ephemeral nature, in terms of safety, freedom and anonymity.
In this process, he looked at queerness as aspirational amid caste and class anxieties. In how technology mediates our ‘many’ desires, we look at the play of caste and class in our maps of Grindr, an online smart-phone based dating app, through the city of Delhi. To ask, both in terms of spaces that are produced, and geographies of time — when do desires of certain kinds seem feasible, and for whom?
The talk, followed by a film screening, looked at the interface of marginalized identity and violent displacement in contemporary India. When a home, as both metaphor and memory, is lost, can it ever be rebuilt? And, can gender norms be bent and re-crafted?
What happens to people when they are violently displaced? Buffeted by winds of hate and forced out of their homes and ancestral villages. Scattered like human debris in relief camps; never able to return. How do they rebuild a new home and a new life, with hearts unable to erase the memories of all that has been left behind?
The film is set in a town in north India, where targetted violence in 2013 forced over 60,000 people to flee their homes in fear. Many could never return. The Colour of My Home is about rebuilding broken lives. It is about the effect of losing home and identity on strong women like Momina, men like Kallu, Anis, and Allahmer Chacha, and the choices that now face a young woman like Rani. The film is about scars that hate and violence leave on the human soul. It is about remembering and loss. It is also about the power of hope and the will to survive.