Members and supporters of LGBTQI community in Mumbai, including the US Consul General, Mr Thomas Vajda along with his 15 year old daughter, gathered at Azad Maidan to share their grief over the massacre in Orlando. Well-wishers sang, hugged and wrote messages for Orlando.
Calling the attack an act of terrorism and an act of hatred towards a particular community, Thomas Vajda said, “It’s a terrible tragedy, what happened in Orlando. It means a lot to me that halfway around the world, there are a group of people in Mumbai who are coming together to show solidarity with the victims, to show support for the victims.”
His daughter Bette Vajda, spoke at the gathering too, “I want to say that for every person who wants to commit an act of hate, there are more people who want to help, more people who want to heal,” she said.
“We’re here today to condole, to show solidarity, to tell our perpetrators that this violence will not deter our spirit and urge people to have a dialogue with us or let us be because no one can take away our right to exist,” said Saurabh Bondre.
Condemning the attack in Orlando, prominent LGBT activist and first transgender person to represent Asia Pacific in the UN, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi made a plea o the prime minister: “I, again, tell Narendra Modi to act upon the entire basis of democracy that India is built upon and to own our own people in our own country and make them safe.”
The biggest challenge the LGBT community faces in the country is the existence of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that continues to criminalise gay sex and breeds social stigma. Although the community’s resolve to stand “out and proud” was resounding they hoped that the Prime Minister would go beyond “just tweeting his grief for Orlando and take notice of the situation in his own backyard where the LGBT community still suffers abuse.”
“We are here not only to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in the tragic Orlando shooting massacre but also to show our support towards the Indian LGBT community. They need to feel safe in their own country. We must not forget that homosexuality is still criminal under Section 377 and hate crimes are not uncommon in India,” said the founder of FSOG, Shubham Mehrotra.
The mass slaughter in Orlando that reeked of hate was a reminder of several such instances in the recent past. Be it the Bangladeshi gay rights activist who was hacked to death in his apartment last month or Divyaroop from Andheri who was assaulted by strangers last October or the murder of a gay scientist in Mumbai six years ago.
“It’s about time that the Indian government takes cognisance of the fact that the threat to the LGBT community is real and it’s not just a figment of anybody’s imagination happening all the time,” stressed Pallav Patankar of Humsafar Trust.
Actress and Equal Rights Activist, Dolly Thakore, in her speech, pointed out that it upset her that people whom she knew were gays or lesbians had not come out to stand with the rest, in support of this cause.