When it comes to homosexuality in India, liberal media is like Hindutva brigade

Journalism schools are churning out utterly shallow, historically uninformed and insensitive brutes as journalists.

 |  5-minute read |   15-01-2018
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In late 2013, I received a call from a prominent newspaper asking me what I thought of the Supreme Court's Koushal vs Naz Foundation judgment on Section 377. The journalist had already made up her mind about what I was going to say.

It was part of the deafening chorus that built around that judgment. "It is a fantastic judgement," I said. "Yes, isn't it terrible?" she replied. I repeated my statement. The interview was over.

Last week, a popular radio channel called me to interview me on the new developments around the Supreme Court's reopening of Section 377 case and a revisiting of that excoriated earlier Supreme Court judgment.

The interviewer was, again in keeping with the general mindless exhilaration all around, exultant. My comments put a dampener on things. He also asked me about "pride marches" and I told him they were an exercise in apolitical emptiness that ended in celebrations in five star hotels and had nothing to do with the original spirit behind pride marches.

pride690_011518024520.jpgPride marches are an exercise in apolitical emptiness that end in celebrations in five star hotels.

The interview was not aired eventually as what I had said, to put it in the words of my ex-student who works there, "was too serious". What would a fluffy response to this development be?

But fluff is all the liberal media appears capable of in its giddy consensus. Apart from the fact that despite all claims to plurality of opinion, there is only a consistent chorus allowed. Worse, there is no real critical thought or research or insight in the fluff. That is the nature of fluff.

If it is pro-LGBT, it must be good. If it is anti-Koushal, it must be great. If it is pro-Naz, there's nothing better. If you point out that LGBT is not a movement here but an NGOised, middle class, upper caste formation, you are incomprehensible.

If you point out that the Koushal judgment actually exposes the fault lines and the messiness of sexuality debates in India and is therefore a useful and edifying judgment, you must be reactionary. If you point out that the Naz judgment is an elitist, deeply colonial and contradictory judgment, you must be a lunatic.

How different really is this liberal media from the Hindutva brigade? Hindutva bhakts take positions without knowing anything about what they are taking positions on. If ABVP goons are anti-Ramanujan's essay on the Ramayanas without reading it, liberal bhakts are pro-and-anti-judgments without ever reading them. If Hindutva bhakts have a general feeling they are on the right side of history, so do liberal bhakts.

On the issue of LGBT, so many of the ideas of both these camps overlap, they really should hook up with each other. For example, the idea that Hindu culture was fantastic till the bad Muslims and the worse English came along and messed up things, or laws are just colonial and we need to rely on our own cultures. Both are hypocritical in their dependence on Western capital (Hindutva bhakts) and Western ideas and law (liberal bhakts) even as the West and Western law are the bad guys. Both are, in fact, coming together on the question of legalising homosexuality and both of course are steeped in it at other levels. Finally, both show scant regard for actually what the effects of their zealotry have on people and their lives.

ram690_011518024656.jpgProfessor Ramchandra Siras who killed himself.

In 2010, when I was sacked by the director of IIT Hyderabad, a journalist contacted me convinced that it was because I was gay and that she was going to support me and the LGBT cause by exposing this. I tried to tell her that it had nothing to do with my sexuality and that I had filed an RTI and she should wait for the results before she exposes the real story but the next day's headlines on the first page of a rag that pretends to be a newspaper splashed that I was fired for "gay activism".

The place had (still has) no campus, I lived away in the city. The kids were just out of school and training their guns on becoming good right wing engineers and then MBAs. The idea of gay activism there was and is more than laughable. The journalist, however, had only sought to stand by me and expose her liberal credentials. The truth did not matter. She was most offended that I was outraged by the results of her liberal zeal.A few months earlier that year, professor Ramchandra Siras had killed himself at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

The insensitivity of the media in rallying around this man who came from a different era and had no truck with identity politics or the liberal hysteria around it was apparent. NDTV flashed his face on TV as Barkha Dutt harangued him with outraged liberal questions. He answered in monosyllables speaking about his love for AMU and Aligarh. Those were among the most prurient and painfully unwatchable moments in the history of Indian television, an industry which has now made such moments par for the course.

While it may seem impossible that we ever create a culture where we have the time and patience to meet a subject like professor Siras on his own terms and listen to the language in which he might speak his mind, is it too much to ask that the hordes of J schools (like the hordes of B schools) who churn out utterly shallow, historically uninformed and insensitive brutes as journalists actually teach them history, ethics, pluralist thinking and journalistic complexity?

Or are we simply happy with the mindless consensus that passes off for thinking, journalistic, legal or otherwise?

Also read: Hinduism today is in need of reform

Writer

Ashley Tellis Ashley Tellis @tellisashley

The writer is an LGBT rights activist based in Chennai.

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