With 2,500 marchers, less faces hidden behind masks and more tolerance from the police, the fourth Mumbai Queer Pride Walk on Saturday went ‘fantastically well’ according to one of the organisers.
The march was the highlight of a week of varied celebrations of LGBT life in Mumbai with dancing, stand-up open mic confessions, films and music all part of Queer Azaadi Mumbai.
Saturday’s march kicked off with spontaneous speeches and took an hour and half walking through central Mumbai to the beachside. ‘People really started dancing once the drums went off,’ said Pallav Patankar, one of the organisers. Patankar also said that angels emerged as the unplanned theme this year, with lots of people wearing fluffy wings and halos. The march was led by a giant gay pride flag. 'Last year we felt that we were pushed into a corner and the police made us walk really fast,' continued Patankar. 'This time the police said take your time, we're not going to bother you.’
As well as the attitude of the police, another sign that Indian society is becoming more accepting of LGBT life is that this year people felt less compelled to hide their identities behind masks as they did in previous years. ‘I must have seen only about 10 or 20 people there in masks,’ said Patankar. During the first march four years ago the majority of people wore masks so they wouldn't be seen in photographs or TV footage.
The only issue during Saturday was that initially the organisers were told by the ministry of culture that they couldn’t assemble at the start of the march because that area was only allowed to be used for sporting events. But when they arrived there they found a tent set up and an religious event happening there. ‘So they just weren't telling us the truth, I don't know if it's something homophobic and they didn't want to give it to an LGBT march,’ said Patankar. ‘The rule seems to apply to us not others which seems strange. So we're going to find out why we weren't allowed to use the space for assembly.’