Has queer pride in India actually anything in common with Islam?
Every country shares the historical oppression of their queer community during their Pride Parade. In fact, that is the very purpose of the event, to instill pride among folk historically marginalized in gender politics. This becomes problematic in India because of the Queer Movement’s hijacking by vested interests that promote Hinduphobia but simultaneously finds itself in cahoots with Islamism.
In the process, many persons who lie at the intersection of Hindu and queer are made to continuously negotiate their identity, give up one or the other identity and either remain closeted queer for life or becomes a closeted Hindu. Their inability to access their History and rootlessness from receiving a colonial education often pushes them in the process of becoming a useful idiot in the hands of the colonial establishment. On the other hand, the queer community is made to go through historical amnesia as they are taught that their arch-oppressors are actually their ally; something similar to Dalit-Muslim Unity, except for the huge resistance that endeavor faces from Dr. Ambedkar’s views on Islam.
Gender politics in Islamic India
As an ideology, Islamism sought to fashion its virtues in terms of toxic masculinity; to be ‘imposed’ from above (like man on woman), seduction wherever possible, outright violence to do that ‘the necessary’ (like sex for procreation), and the decimation of pluralism for a monotone where the laity, the converted Hindus must fully ‘submit’ to that higher power (Higher power knows best). Like all chauvinism, it started by claiming the public sphere of affairs and Hinduism became a private affair. Thus, all Hindus irrespective of their gender and sexuality became subservient objects in the rule of Islam. People became publicly Muslim, conforming to alien dress codes and norms while they remained their true Hindu selves in the closet, their private spaces.
Huge number of public Muslims formally converted back after Mir Qasim left Sind or when Tipu Sultan died fighting. Their coming back was also simultaneously a step out of the closet, being their true selves when the power configuration permitted them to be so.
Advocation of Ghazwa-e-Hind was sexualized in imagery, bringing back India to its place, the fold of ‘Allah’ (like a woman from her father’s home to her husbands), the invocation of Jahiliya to describe society (the pre-adolescent phase of society that should invite penetration of the teachings of Islam), the term Hinduani to denote the effeminate nature of the society. The Sultans styled themselves as the sword of righteousness invoking the phallogism of the male organ projected outwards for ‘conquest’.
The closeted-ness of the Hindu society, Hinduism in private and Islamic norms in public, can be gauged from Dr. Meenakshi Jain’s writing on historic Delhi (Parallel Pathways, page 35);
Interestingly, a map of the city dated around A.D. 1850 shows most of the mosques of Shahjahanabad but provides virtually no information on Hindu, Sikh and Jain religious structures (Ehlers and Krafft 2003: 21).
An archeological survey conducted in the early twentieth century listed 200 mosques constructed in the city between 1639 and 1857, of which half were built in the imperial heydays between 1639 and 1739 (Blake 1991: 52). Interestingly, no temples were constructed in the era of Mughal dominance (1639-1739). Fifteen temples were built during the years 1739-1803, and a record eighty-one in the period of British ascendancy in the city (1803-57; Blake 1991: 110, 181). The absence of temples in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries could be attributed to the prevailing power balance.
Even the temples constructed in Shahjahanabad between 1739 and 1857 made a riveting statement. Their size and placement were testimony to the physical transformation temples had undergone in Delhi from the time last encountered in the Qila-i-Rai Pithora. The temples of Shahjahanabad were all virtually invisible, perhaps due to a deliberate effort to keep them veiled from public view. There was nothing to even indicate their existence. Most were merely small openings in alcoves and located in private courtyards surrounded by high walls. None of the temples built in the city in this period had the hallmark shikhar (Asher 2002b: 127).
Such a gendered power matrix naturally gave rise to sexual violence. In medieval India, this was the huge number of Hindu children enslaved by barbaric invaders to fulfil their desires of flesh. Islamic invaders were well known for same-sex love as well as extending their physical love to these innocent slaves, both male and female, who had barely understood the functioning of their body. Many males would eventually be castrated so that these handsome men would not impregnate the women of the Harem. India’s queer history is the history of how these medieval Hindus were oppressed by Islamic imperialists, how they carved a niche for themselves in the power matrix and when occasion presented itself, challenged the alien Islamic radicals ruling their lands.
Slavery simply did not exist before Islam and there is no evidence to show that queer people were oppressed in pre-Islamic India.
By not making such history open for public discussion, and continuously conflating the interests of the Queers of India with their Islamic arch-oppressors, the colonial elites (who call themselves Left) uses our pain to further their own political interests.
Muslim women and Queer Movement
The recent Hinduphobia in the Mumbai pride parade is only a symptom of this disease. A huge number of placards went up in solidarity with anti-CAA-NRC protests led by women. The Delhi pride of 2019 was equally hateful in promoting Azaadi of Kashmir and other Islamic balderdash.
The Queer Movement has anything to do with the rabid Islamists of Shaheen-bagh. In fact, these aunties have historically used the slaves of their husbands for their own pleasure.
Francisco Pelsaert, who visited the India ruled by Jahangir writes
The husband sits like a golden cock among the gilded hens until midnight, or until passion, or drink, sends him to bed. Then if one of the pretty slave girls takes his fancy, he calls
her to him and enjoys her, his wife not daring to show any signs of displeasure, but dissembling, though she will take it out of the slave-girl later on.
Two or three eunuchs, or more, who are merely purchased Bengali slaves,
but are usually faithful to their master, are appointed for each wife, to ensure
that she is seen by no man except her husband; and, if a eunuch fails in this
duty, he, with everyone else to blame for the stranger’s presence, is in danger
of losing his life…..
The wives feel themselves bound to do all this, in order that what happens in the house
may be concealed from their husband’s knowledge; for many, or perhaps most of them,
so far forget themselves, that, when their husband has gone away, either to Court, or to some place where he takes only his favorite wife, and leaves the rest at home, they allow the eunuch
to enjoy them according to his ability, and thus gratify their burning passions when they have no opportunity of going out; but otherwise they spare no craft or trouble to enable them to enjoy themselves outside. These wretched women wear, indeed, the most expensive clothes, eat the daintiest food, and enjoy all worldly pleasures except one, and for that one they grieve, saying they would willingly give everything in exchange for a beggar’s poverty.
The point to remember is that the Hindu eunuch and the Islamic woman are not equal and the woman is merely abusing her stature here. Their fulfillment of desires is also heavily tilted in favor of the power imbalance.
Today, their descendants, the aunties of Shaheen-bagh find themselves comfortable in their burqa and rabid Hindu hate because Indo-Islamic patriarchy has historically provided them with, for lack of a better word, sex toys to compensate for their over-shared husbands.
The exalted wealth and status of the women stemmed from the Islamic State looting the Hindu peasantry. In Mughal India, especially, in the rule of Jahangir, it was very common of peasants to sell their children to raise their own taxes and to ensure the child does not die of hunger. Such Hindu children became eunuchs and sex slaves. These people were thus experiencing structural exploitation being situated at the intersection of Hindu (native Indian) and their subsequent roles in the Muslim household.
These women are not alone. History is replete with groups oppressed by an ideology refusing to identify their oppression as such because they had been given another group to oppress upon in return. Yet, this episode only shows how the colonial masters erase queer history that is uncomfortable to their favorite wife, Islamism.
Reaction of Hindus to Non-hetero-normative leaders
On the other hand, there was unadulterated pride among our queer ancestors who had to put their Hindu identity in their closet in the Islamic court to recover them in the nick of time.
Hasan was enslaved as a child in the Khliji raids of Gujarat, 1299 and was made a boy slave to Alauddin Khilji owing to his looks. Alauddin’s son Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah was also charmed by his looks and subsequently made him a part of the nobility and his love life, rechristening him Khusrau Khan.
Our hero was however using his queer body to rise up the ranks so that implant the kiss of death on Imperial Islam. Long story short, he subsequently murdered his master, married his chief queen Deval Devi, another closeted Hindu princess and they together were able to mound a Hindu insurrection in Delhi. Many mosques were defaced, Qurans were desecrated and vigraha of Hindu gods and goddesses placed in propitiated in their stead. Many Muslim nobles and governors supported him in letter to protect their own position but this did not materialize in the battlefield when the Tughlaq governor of Dipalpur attacked Delhi under the banner of Islam. The episode gave way to Tughlaq rule in Delhi.
This event is itself a revolutionary phase in the gendered subjugation of Hindus under Islam. However, more important to note is the role played by common Hindus in accepting the leadership of someone supposedly stigmatized by a forced homosexual relationship.
Barwari (elsewhere Baradu) Rajputs, his clan actively supported him and had no hesitation being led by someone who had flouted hetero-normativity. K. S. Lal wrote about them in “Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India”, (page 72-73)
Khusrau Shah was the leader. It was actually the Barwaris who rose in revolt. There is difference of opinion about who the Barwaris were and how low was their tribe.2 But all chroniclers
including Barani, Amir Khusrau and Ibn Battuta credit them with low social status coupled with bravery and readiness to lay down their lives for their masters. The Barwaris had heard or eyewitnessed the atrocities of the Muslim soldiers in Gujarat during its invasion in 1299 CE. The massacres in Anhilwara, Asavalli (near Ahmedabad), Cambay, Vanmanthali, Surat etc. had earned
Alauddin, according to the Rasmala, the nickname of Khuni (shedder of blood). A number of monasteries, temples and palaces in Gujarat had been destroyed.3 So, when a call came from their
clansman Khusrau, thousands of Barwaris trudged hundreds of miles on foot and carts for the capital of Hindustan to avenge the sack of Gujarat. According to Farishtah, there were forty thousand Barwaris in Delhi at the time of their of insurrection.4 They helped in planning and executing the assassination of Qutbuddin. Thereafter they finished all the scions of the Khalji
house, all the possible claimants to the throne. Khusrau Shah ascended the throne; he usurped the chief wife of Qutbuddin and other Barwaris took possession of Muslim girls. Copies of the
Quran were torn to pieces and used for seats for idols which were placed in the niches (mehrabs) of the mosques.5 Idol worship began to be practised inside the royal palace. Khusrau Shah, writes Ibn Battuta, “forbade the slaughter of cows according to the custom of infidel Hindus… (because) they hold the cow in great esteem”.6 A latter-day chronicler, Nizamuddin Ahmad,
says that mosques were also destroyed.7 According to the contemporary chronicler Barani, infidelity gained ascendancy and the Musalmans were subjected to humiliations unprecedented in
the history of the Sultanate. Yahiya’s account is not exaggerated. He says that the Hindus (i.e. Barwaris), confident of their position as relations of Sultan Nasiruddin Khusrau Shah, subjected
the Muslims to cruelty.8 They were in control of Delhi for a little more than four months. During this period some of the disgruntled nobles were murdered in their houses. Others were
brought into the palace by means of guile and treachery and beheaded. Qazi Ziyauddin’s house was raided and bestowed on Randhol, a maternal uncle of Khusrau Shah. He had played a
leading role in the coup and was given the title of Raya Rayan.
These Rajputs still claimed royal titles, notably the Danta state before they merged with the Indian Union.
This account however show that contemporary Hindus did not suffer from Homophobia in any form. However, we do see that the gendered nature of Islamic violence forced them to retaliate in a similar way to inflict the same mental pain the Hindu community felt on the imperial elites.
Hasan also became a hero in the eyes of chief architect of Hindutva, Veer Savarkar. He dedicated an entire chapter to Hasan and Devaldevi in his “Six Glorious epochs of Indian History” (page 262-285). He calls Khusrau Khan ‘Shree Dharmrakshak’ and actually condones his court intrigues. As a fellow Hindu, he is also aghast at the imposition of patriarchal rape on the tender slave boy Hasan and interprets his murder of the Sultan as a reaction to same sex rape. However, he frequently compares him to Malik Kafur who got subdued and accepted his Islamic self. He tells his audience how Hasan did not forget his true self even in the face of oppression inside the Imperial household.
Savarkar’s endorsement of Hasan shows that he was not at all hesitant in accepting a queer as a progenitor of Hindutva. They were after all co-passengers in fight against the Indo-Islamic Patriarchy. This also shows that Savarkar was hardly a run-of-the-mill cave man conservative but a progressive man who did not believe that Islam had anything positive to contribute to India’s destiny. He would have probably come out as a valuable LGBTQ ally had the movement gained steam while he was alive.
The reactions of Hindus both medieval and modern are in stark contrast with what Europe was doing to its military leaders even in late 19th century. The Dreyfus affair saw a French officer hounded and it reeked of Homophobia along with anti-Semitism. On the other side of the Rhine, the arms manufacturer Friedrich Krupps was driven to commit suicide.
Many people, especially those who are not well read, express shock when they find queer people sympathetic to the cause of Hindutva, when truth is that both these causes are linked, of fighting the patriarchal tyranny of Islam.