Academics Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai were bestowed the KASHISH Rainbow Warrior Award on May 29, 2016 at the KASHISH 2016 Closing Night Award Ceremony at Liberty Cinema. The awards, instituted by KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, were given by actor and festival ambassador Celina Jaitly at the closing ceremony of the 7th edition of South Asia’s biggest LGBT film festival.
“The KASHISH Rainbow Warrior Award aims to recognize outstanding efforts of individuals in India who have contributed to LGBT visibility and empowerment by instituting an award that perpetuates this history in people’s consciousness,” said festival director Sridhar Rangayan. “ Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, were chosen for the award this year their outstanding achievement in researching and reclaiming same-sex love in Indian literature and texts, and for co-authoring the defining book ‘Same-Sex Love in India’,” he added.
“Thanks very much for conferring this award upon me. I am grateful and feel honoured. On this occasion, I think of our many martyrs who struggle and die, some noticed, many unnoticed, from Prof. Siras to the murdered Bangladesh activists to lesbian couples driven to joint suicide. However, we are blessed to have in India a vibrant movement with many strands, so I trust that sooner rather than later the colonial anti-sodomy law will be overturned and LGBT people in India and worldwide will obtain all our rights as equal citizens,” said Ruth Vanita, who could not attend the ceremony but sent a message to be read out at the event.
“I’m at a loss for words and this is absolutely overwhelming,” said Kidwai. “I have never been a pessimist, even in my low years. Even then i never imagined that we’d reach this stage and that I’d be a part of something that is so vibrant and great like KASHISH,” he added.
The KASHISH Rainbow Warrior Award, instituted in 2014, it recognizes and honors LGBTQ individuals in India who have done path-breaking work in terms of activism or cultural outputs like film, art, fashion, literature to mainstream LGBTQ visibility. The first KASHISH Rainbow Warrior Award was conferred on leading gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi and India’s top fashion designer Wendell Rodricks in 2014. Betu Singh, one of the first lesbian activist in India who started Sangini Trust, was conferred the award posthumously in 2015.
Ruth Vanita, Professor at the University of Montana, former Reader in English at Miranda House and the English Department, Delhi University, is a literary historian, poet and translator.
Educated entirely in India, she was founding co-editor of Manushi, India’s first nationwide feminist magazine and an activist in the women’s and civil liberties movements from 1978 to 1990. She is co-editor of the path-breaking Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History (2000; updated edition Penguin India 2008) and editor of Queering India (Routledge 2002).
She is the author of several books, including Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination (Columbia UP 1996) Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (Penguin India & Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005), and Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile: Essays on Gender, Culture and Sexuality (Yoda, 2005). Her most recent book, Gender, Sex and the City: Urdu Rekhti Poetry 1780-1870, appeared in 2012 from Orient Blackswan, Delhi, and Palgrave-Macmillan, NY.
Her first collection of poems, A Play of Light appeared from Penguin India in 1994, and since then she has published poems in many anthologies and journals.
She has translated several works of fiction and poetry from Hindi and Urdu to English, including Pandey Bechan Sharma Ugra’s Chocolate (Oxford UP, Delhi & Duke UP), stories about male-male desire that first appeared in the 1920s, and his autobiography, About Me (Apni Khabar, Penguin India), The Co-Wife and Other Stories by Munshi Premchand (Penguin India, 2008), Strangers on the Roof by Rajendra Yadav (Penguin India, 1994), and Alone Together: Stories by Three Hindi Women Writers (Women Unlimited, 2013).
Saleem Kidwai is an eminent scholar of medieval Indian history, and an activist. Born in 1951 in Lucknow, he completed his schooling there, and went to Delhi to study History in 1968. He took up teaching at the Delhi University in 1973 and took leave to study at McGill University between 1976-80. He taught history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi until 1993.
He was one of the first academics to speak publicly as a member of the LGBT community. He has been part of the earliest social groups formed in Delhi and has been actively engaged in writing and speaking about LGBT issues.
He is the co-editor, alongwith Ruth Vanita, of the iconic book ‘Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History’ published in 2000. It is a pioneering work documenting and exploring the indigenous roots of same-sex desire in South Asia.
His other academic areas of interest are medieval history and culture, the history of tawaifs, and north Indian music. Kidwai has also translated singer Mallika Pukhraj’s autobiography, “Song Sung True.”
Retiring from Delhi University in 1993, he has since been pursuing individual research and writing in Lucknow.