Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Like many other Indians, I have been following your visit to the US with keen interest. You are after all, the democratically elected representative of 1.3 Billion of us, and every word you say will reflect in how the world perceives India – the 9000 year old civilisation you claim to understand very well.
I also see that the Indians and the non-Indians are equally impressed by your speeches and your charisma. But what stood out to me is that you seemed very friendly and open to meeting minority leaders and strongly held communities – be it Jews, Indian-Sikhs, Indian-Americans – to understand their issues. What a wonderful step, Mr. Prime Minister. I just thought this was an opportune moment for me to address something that not only affects me personally, but millions (you read that right, millions) of Indians; your government’s discriminatory attitude towards homosexuality and outright support of homophobia in the country.
How is it, Mr. Modi, that you can stand on stage and proclaim to follow the mantra of “Sabka saath, Sabka vikas”, while you sideline and ignore the existence of millions of Indians who choose to love someone of the same sex? Are we not Indian? Is our development, our progress, our dreams – less than that of those who followed your ‘natural’ order and are attracted only to the opposite sex? You also claim that you are everyone’s Prime Minister, even those who did not vote for you. Except, you are choosing not to be the Prime Minister of those who suffer right through childhood, teenage and adolescence with bullying, teasing, discrimination in school, in workplace and worst of all, their own families.
At the UN, you said that we need an International Yoga Day. Sir, with all due respect to that thought, I believe we need a National Day Against Homophobia and most of your ministers should probably be front in line to get educated on that day. You also said nations should move away from labels of G-8, G-20, etc. We must all work together. How about the labels that separate your own countrymen, Mr. Modi? Will you choose to continue to disregard those who are gay and consider their existence to be unnatural and worse, of criminal nature? Another important event that occurred at the UN assembly (which most of the Indian media conveniently ignored amidst praises and ratings of your speeches): UN’s top human rights body held a vote to protect the rights of individuals regardless of sexual orientation. The 47-nation Human Rights Council resolution expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity”. And which side of the issue did we decide to be on? We abstained in that vote along with China. That is pathetic Sir. Will you take a 15-minute break from ensuring your Ministers turn up on time, to also investigate why we took that stand at the UN on an important Human Rights issue? Is it okay for us to ignore an issue that the majority of the world is striving to understand and resolve, considering we represent 1/6th of the world’s population?
You spoke to a highly supportive Indian diaspora in Madison Square. You told them that you are a simple man who got to where he is by selling tea. Did you ever ask people before serving them tea whether they were gay or straight? You also shared that by 2022, India’s 75th Independence anniversary; you want a roof over every Indians’ head. That’s a noble ambition. How about the equal right to love and marry Mr. Prime Minister? Would the world’s largest democracy have to wait another 75 years for that?
You are going to be meeting some of the CEOs of the largest corporations of the world. Take a moment in-between your “Make in India” pitch to ask them about their non-discrimination policies. In fact, I hope they ask you how their employees who will be relocating to India to “make in India” would be protected against discrimination based on caste, gender and sexual orientation. You seem to believe that the US and India are natural partners – world’s oldest and world’s largest democracy. I hope that while you are there, you are able to reflect on how the world’s oldest democracy has made the long inevitable journey to embrace the fact that Human Rights are everyone’s rights.
You quote Sanskrit shloks to pray for everyone’s well being. You hoped and prayed in front of 60,000 people outside India that “may no one suffer”. Yet, your government is allowing for millions to suffer by refusing to bring in an amendment in the constitution to de-criminalize homosexuality. Wait, you are not refusing, you are actually ignoring the issue out right since the election. Let’s talk about what matters Mr. Prime Minister – it’s not how you haven’t taken a break since getting elected, or how you are thankful to Hugh Jackman about standing on stage with you – let’s talk about human dignity, liberty, freedom, compassion and love – things that lay at the foundation of humanity and democracy.
Desi Gay Man