A nation grapples for it's collective soul

Feb 03, 2016, 09:34 IST | Vikram Phukan

I am filing this piece from the Supreme Court lawns on my phone, with just 15 per cent charge left on my device

I am filing this piece from the Supreme Court lawns on my phone, with just 15 per cent charge left on my device. This state of exigency matches what was the early afternoon mood here, that was only alleviated when, in a matter of minutes, it was announced that the apex court had referred the Section 377 petition to a five-judge constitutional bench. This is a first as far as curative petitions go, but more significantly, it indicates that the judiciary hasn’t yet abdicated its responsibility towards the rights and dignity of a ‘miniscule minority’ (they wish) that the country at large has often displayed a cavalier attitude towards. Time hasn’t run out yet. It wouldn’t have even if the petition had been dismissed, many more battles would be spawned, are being raged everyday. Yet, this gives a 15-year-long struggle a fresh lease of life. We don’t know yet where the new signposts will arrive on what has been the chequered timeline of an unprecedented legal challenge that represents a test of India’s inclusiveness, and its ability to purge itself of its own deep-seated malaise.

We who represent the queer community, feel the air here is that of muted and somewhat anti-climactic celebration, when closure had been sought. Hovering around, one can catch snatches of fervent commentary by newscasters eager to transmit an elusive slice of live history, bytes from lawyers for whom it is business as usual, stoic statements from embattled activists, and even words of solidarity from the tea vendor who has served up cups of chai without yet collecting his dues, caught up in the swirl of events that carry the ring of being momentous, even if it isn’t really. The mix of sensibilities and languages and opinions, the mêlée gives off the vibe of a nation grappling for its collective soul. Such pay-offs do count, but we must keep a perspective of prejudices that persist, irrespective of what the statute books say. We must resolve to no longer remain the nation’s favourite whipping boys but take our destinies in our own hands.

The columnist writes on queer issues.

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