For a state that normally only witnesses religious chants by passing pilgrims, Uttarakhand saw a different kind of parade this year. On July 30, Dehradun welcomed its first Pride walk, replete with a colourful rally and slogans about sexual choices, marking a new and unfamiliar beginning for locals.
The walk was organised by the Prayojan Kalyan Samiti, and made Dehradun the fourth Indian city to have its first ever Pride walk this year after Islampur, Bhopal and Lucknow.
More than a hundred participants from all over Uttarakhand and neighbouring states passed through the city, raising slogans such as, “Kaun si Dhara sabse Battar, 377, 377”, “Leke rahenge azadi, par pyaar se lenge azadi” and “Hi Hi Ho Ho Homophobia has to go”.
Natasha, secretary of the Prayojan Kalyan Samiti said, “Our main agenda is to bring the LGBTQ community in Uttarakhand to the mainstream. But organising a national event like Pride was always going to be a challenge. However, we got a better response than we expected. The whole event and the days leading up to it were memorable because we hosted our friends from other states in our homes as guests while trying to make this happen. The footfall wouldn’t have been so large if it wasn’t for people who made the effort to travel all the way during monsoons at such a short notice and supported the march.”
Often referred to as ‘Devbhoomi’, with its pilgrimage sites and adherence to intense religious belief systems, Uttarakhand is often too conservative for members of the LGBTQ community to dare coming out, especially for those residing in the interiors. And so this maiden event to celebrate sexual freedom takes on even greater (and historical!) significance for the state. LGBTQ communities in small towns such as Dehradun also face heightened alienation in the absence of the kind of support that their peers in major metro cities enjoy.
This reinforces the importance of this year’s Pride walk as a step in the right direction. It has paved way for the building a safer environment for the region’s LGBTQ communities – one that not only allows but also celebrates the communities’ exploration of themselves and their identities.
A local traveller glances at the rainbow flag from a tuktuk.
Instead of putting a damper on the spirits of the crowd, the intense downpour invoked a kind of wildness and reckless romanticism in the marchers.
A local bus driver and conductor stare with curiosity at Natasha and Asheem enjoying a game of fugdi.
A boy stares back at the marchers carrying the Pride flag through a crowded market street.
A marcher takes a smoke break.
The fact that so many locals participated in the Pride even as some had to do so with cloths concealing their faces to protect their identities shows how essential a safe and flourishing community currently is in the state.
As the rally marches ahead behind them, 2 local onlookers channelise their inner queer selves by holding hands while walking past. For the one truth, of course!
Natasha, a local transgender wore a traditional bridal outfit from the Gadwal community.