An Indian novelist and poet has reacted to assertions that homosexuality was “imported” into the country, to say that it was in fact “homophobia came into India, not homosexuality”.
Vikram Seth, author of A Suitable Boy, made the comments in response to last week’s ruling by the Indian Supreme Court to reinstate Section 377 of the Penal Code to reintroduce a ban on gay sex.
Mr Seth was responding to assertions by Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh, and others, that homosexuality was brought into India.
“There is no question about the fact that this ruling has pushed us backwards, and now you will be a criminal if you are open about it. Can you imagine the huge weight of this law of Indian Supreme Court, a revered institution?” he said.
“To an eternal shame, one of the two leading parties of our country has also said that put these people into jail for life as this is against Indian culture. They don’t know a thing about Indian culture. It is homophobia that came into India and not homosexuality,” he continued.
Speaking of the memoirs of Ẓahīr ud-Dīn Muḥammad Bābur, founder of the Mughal Empire and a great-great-great-grandson of Timur, he said homosexuality was present in Indian culture for centuries.
“Even if you read ‘Baburnama’ – the book of founder of Mughal empire Babur, you will see how there are fine descriptions of him being in love with another man and how he speaks about it. It is very moving,” he said.
“Look into our history before you say this is Indian and this is not Indian. These people who claim to be Indian are most un-Indian. They don’t have the Indian virtues of tolerance, they don’t look at the Indian source of scriptures,” he continued.
“They will try to find a scapegoat so that they can run after the prey and what is their prey is votes. If there is blood, fine, as long as they can get votes. Shame on them…they are shame on Indian culture,” he added.
Dr Purna Sen, former Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat and chair of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said: “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a terrible setback for the struggle to secure equal rights for LGBT people, not just in India, but in many of the Commonwealth countries that still enforce colonial era restrictions on the liberties of LGBT people.”