Twenty-six-year-old Ankit Bhuptani is not a delusional man. He knows that "we live in a country where its citizens respect their faith more than the laws." Getting the average person to open up to the needs and sensitivities that the LGBTQIA+ community is hard enough.
How much harder would it be to try that with religious hardliners and get them to endorse a way of life that the Supreme Court is still iffy about? Quite a bit. But Ankit wasn't scared of the going down that road. Ankit founded Gay And Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA), Mumbai an organisation that talks to religious leaders — with a lot of Hindu groups and sects included — to get them to understand alternate sexualities, "The problem with aggressive activism is that they want things to change in 10 minutes. Every social revolution takes years and the best you can do is to be a part of it. I have been following the Vaishnava religion since I was a kid. And I love being a part of it. And I know, with time they will see that this religion has always been a liberal one," he says.
GALVA ensures that Hinduism is a liberal religion that has had many instances of homosexuality. Ankit, who was extremely impressed with GALVA's parent organisation founded by ISKCON follower William J in the US, thought that something of that sort will help people learn more about the religion and homosexuality in India. Needless to say, he is on the right path to achieve what he started in 2011.
That's not it. Ankit did whatever he could individually to make a difference in people's mindset. Ankit, who left his job to travel across the country for three months, made it a mission to talk about his homosexuality to the people he met on the road, bus, trains or wherever he was. "I talked to them, whoever they were! At least that way, they will know that we exist," he said.
After his travels and gaining enough perspective to build a forum, he founded GALVA in Mumbai. Since then, he and his team have been not only talking to but listening to the perspective of the religious leaders from various religions. "A faith leader talking about homosexuality is enough to break a taboo. A conversation can help us normalise it," he says. They also reach out to spiritual organisations like Art of Living and Hare Rama, Hare Krishna for support. And it works! "Just two weeks ago Art of Living's FB display pictures was filtered into Pride Parade colours. That's a big deal, isn't it?" he asks.
Not stopping at that, GALVA organises workshops at homes where the team members draw in examples from mythology explaining how homosexuality was a part of and fairly accepted during mythological times. "We want the families to know that this is not some modern phenomenon that kids got hooked on to after they started using phones or started watching western series," he says. Of course there were threats and opposition — including life threats. But that never came in the way of Ankit's determination. "Any fight needs patience and I am ready to give whatever it takes," he signs off.