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Love in India is a crime: Veteran actor Sharat Saxena on LGBTQIA rights

The 67-year-old veteran actor is not optimistic about the kinnar (eunuch) community getting social acceptance, but is hoping his film Hansa – Ek Sanyog creates awareness.

Mayur Lookhar

Few films have been made on the kinnar or enuch community in Indian cinema. Filmmakers Santosh Kashyap and Dhiraj Verma are set to change that, as they have made a film titled Hansa – Ek Sanyog that delves into the lives of the kinnar community. The makers are refraining from using the word 'kinnar' and will instead refer to the community as the third gender.

Veteran actor Sharat Saxena, who plays a pivotal role in the film, has called upon the world to respect the community.

"It has become complicated for the third gender to survive in this world because everyone is concerned about what the society will think. Kinnar are also human and they should receive the respect like any other human in our society and with Hansa – Ek Sanyog, we wish to pass that message to the world," said Saxena, 67.

Actors speaking on pertinent issues around the release of their film is common. When we asked Saxena if it was easy to speak up for the community when he was growing up, he said, "All over India people make fun of them. For some reason, I never made fun of these people. I took them very seriously. I used to think why they were being mistreated like this? What was their fault?"  

Saxena is of the view that most people in the country don’t have a caring attitude towards ordinary human beings, so it is a more difficult task to respect the third gender.

“Now be it third gender, old people, a disabled child, wounded animals, we don’t have a caring attitude. We don’t have such sensibilities. This insensitive attitude is only growing. Now we have mob lynchings, but nothing is being done to stop it. We are taught to avoid any confrontation, meekly move away. What [injustice] you have seen, forget it. This is our attitude in India. Hum logon ka khoon thanda ho chuka hain [we have become cold-blooded now]," said the Race 3 (2018) actor.

While it is easy in the age of social media to offer support through  a tweet or a Facebook post, standing shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQIA community is the real struggle.

“The stigma that we carry for over 6,000 years cannot be eradicated in 50-100 years. It is ingrained in your DNA, dislike, distrust, antipathy to the third gender. It is not easy to get rid of this, but we ought to make a sincere effort. It’s taken 70 years for you to talk about their rights. Why didn’t our great leaders from 1947 ever think about them?,” questioned the actor.

Saxena pointed out how the community had been mainly shown in wedding sequences in Hindi films. The Bodyguard (2011) actor lauded the late comedian Mehmood who gave respect to the community in some of his films.

The issue of rights for the LGBTQIA community has been debated in Indian polity and the judiciary for long. The community has been demanding the removal of the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature. Saxena wasn’t upbeat about the judiciary or the government granting basic human rights to the LGBTQIA community.

“We don’t give the basic right to live to normal human beings. We look for opportunities to suffocate a normal human being. People in power do that. So, how can these people give the LGBT community a special status? We kill normal human beings [referring to honour killings]. Just because a man and woman are in love they will be murdered. We never had the live-and-let-live attitude. The people in position of power feel superior. They believe their word is right. Love in India, I’m sorry to say, is a crime,” Saxena concluded.

Hansa – Ek Sanyog is likely to be released later this year.