Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu Mahasabha leader had his slit throat in 2019 by two Muslim assailants. His statements about Prophet Muhammad rubbed a lot of people the wrong way but many forget that it was actually Arun Jaitley supporting LGBT rights that sparked a horrific chain of events.
Jaitley famously said at the Times Lit Fest in 2015 that Section 377 was illegal and said: “When you have millions of people involved in this (gay sex), you can’t nudge them off. Jurisprudence world over is evolving, I think the judgment was not correct and, probably at some stage, they may have to reconsider.
This had led Azam Khan to make a remark mocking the RSS: “Kyon yeh matlab samjhe, zaroori thodi hai sarey lok unki vichardhara key ho, RSS per tou ilzam hi yeh hai, isiliye shadi byah nahi karte. (Why should we consider this, it is not necessary that everybody holds their view… RSS faces such allegations, perhaps that’s why they do not marry)”
What followed was Kamlesh Tiwari’s diatribe that he paid with his life but Jaitley was a strange LGBT ally.
While Jaitley is remembered for many stellar contributions to Indian politics including helping PM Modi navigate Delhi and keeping most journalists well-fed, his comments about the LGBTQ community showed he was an ally as well.
Incidentally, Jaitley didn’t use the term homosexuality but gay sex since Section 377 didn’t criminalise the state of being gay but simply the acts, which it considered ‘unnatural sex’ a punishable offence.
Jaitley’s remarks were often in stark contrast to his party men. His bete noire Subramanian Swamy made no qualms about homophobic remarks, even calling it an American propaganda to open gay bars!In 2009, the Delhi High Court had decriminalised Section 377 but was re-criminalised in 2013 by the Supreme Court of India.
In 2013, BJP’s Rajnath Singh had said that the party wouldn’t allow homosexuality to be decriminalised. Five years later, the Centre’s ASG Tushar Mehta said that the Govt won’t contest the SC decision to decriminalise gay sex.
In fact, Jyoti Malhotra argued in the Print that it was Jaitley who got Modi government to reverse its stance.
She wrote: “The answer is Arun Jaitley. The minister-without-portfolio has for some time been going against his party’s grain and arguing that Section 377 should be scrapped, and that it doesn’t behove a government to look inside a citizen’s bedroom. In the last few days, even in his semi-medical isolation, Jaitley is believed to have pushed for a debate across the senior BJP leadership. According to a source, “The discussion went all the way to the PMO, to the Prime Minister himself.”
”Earlier, senior RSS leader Dattatreya Hosable also said that consensual sex shouldn’t be criminalised.Perhaps it wasn’t out of a greater belief of freedom but simply the notion that a modern India shouldn’t have such archaic laws. Even thought Congress hailed the decision in 2018, they spent years opposing it.
In 2013, Congress-led UPA’s ASG PP Malhotra argued that decriminalising Sect 377 would be ‘immoral, unethical and abhorrent’.
Later Sonia Gandhi said it a ‘archaic, repressive and unjust’. Rahul Gandhi called it in 2013 a matte of ‘personal freedom’. It was typical Congress, telling one story on the streets and another one in the sheets. In
This dithering means that when the history books are viewed, people will remember it was the ‘conservative BJP’ and not the ‘liberal Congress’, under whose regime Section 377 was decriminalised in India. And perhaps it wouldn’t have happened without the jurisprudence of Jaitley who urged a nationalist conservative party to take a liberal stance.