Understanding Homonationalism and Pinkwashing

An organization like Kashmiri Youth Movement, which adulates Sarvarkar and is a vocal supporter of right-wing fascism, insistently trying to be seen as acting at the behest of LGBTQ+ interests might seem contradictory to those who of us who see queerness as being inherently oppositional to an oppressive nation-state.



Last week an Instagram account called Pride Kashmir called for a pride parade from Lal Chowk in Srinagar to mark the commencement of International Pride Month. Pride Kashmir was started by an organization called the Kashmiri Youth Movement, which claims to be a ‘non-political’ student group but leaves no chance to denounce Kashmir’s right to self-determination or to celebrate the central government’s clampdown on the dignity and freedom of the people of Kashmir.


Sonzal Welfare Trust, an NGO working to secure LGBT rights in J&K, strongly condemned Pride Kashmir and issued a public statement on their Facebook page stating: “Just to fulfil their own political agenda this very group glorifies the abrogation of Article 370, deliberately invalidating the lived experiences of LGBT Kashmiri Muslims.... (Pride Kashmir) appropriates the voices of queer and transgender people from Kashmir while creating a smokescreen of rainbow solidarity.”


An organization like Kashmiri Youth Movement, which adulates Sarvarkar and is a vocal supporter of right-wing fascism, insistently trying to be seen as acting at the behest of LGBTQ+ interests might seem contradictory to those who of us who see queerness as being inherently oppositional to an oppressive nation-state.


But this couldn’t be further from the reality, as there is a broader and transnational history of the incorporation of queer rights discourses into right-wing political projects. We can begin to understand the social and political processes at work here through the lens of pinkwashing and homonationalism.


Within the context of Kashmir, Pinkwashing can be understood as the process by which the Hindu-nationalists seek to legitimize the unconsented and brutal “integration” of Kashmir by directing attention towards a comparison between the supposed tolerance of LGBTQ rights in the rest of India and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Kashmiris due to it being a Muslim-majority state. The Hindu-nationalists’ pinkwashing of Kashmir is a method through which the Islamophobic myth supporting the Hindu-Muslim conflict is reiterated: Hindu-society is civilised, peace-loving, tolerant, but Muslims are barbaric, homophobic, misogynist, uncivilised, suicide-bombing extremists. 


Pinkwashing juxtaposes a blatantly false image of Indian-progressivism against the background of an islamophobic portrayal of Muslim societies as backwards, repressive, and intolerant.


Pinkwashing tactics such as Pride Kashmir are a propagandistic attempt that aim invisibilize the extent of damage done to Kashmiris residents by the Indian state’s militarized presence, forced lockdowns, and information blackouts. Such tactics wilfully fail to understand LGBT identifying individuals in Kashmir as inhabiting a doubled marginalization through their “marginalised identities of both queer and Kashmiri, and the dominant image of India in the Valley is that of an occupier and aggressor.”


Pinkwashing both manipulates the continuing struggle of India’s  LGBT community against the state’s dismissal of their rights and representation, and it ignores the existence of Kashmir based LGBT-rights organizations like the Sonzal Welfare Trust.



This strategy of the Right-wing draws legitimacy from the global discourse that seeks to accord rights to freedom of sexual choice and a dignified life to the LGBTQ, by playing up the competitive marginality card. In Israel, for instance, the occupation of Palestine has been justified by citing homophobia in Palestinian society.


Yes, dignity and human rights are what LGBTQ movements the world over seek and fight for. Yet, a number of ‘modern’ nations use the rhetoric of these movements to shield their violation of the fundamental rights of the other marginalised groups. Israel has stifled the voices of the marginalised Palestinians by privileging one marginalised group—the LGBTQ—over the others.


A direct corollary to pinkwashing tactics is a phenomenon that the theorist Jasbir K. Puar has called “homonationalism”, which can be understood as the privileging of the liberal gay and lesbian rights discourse in order “to gain access to cultural and legal forms of citizenship by some good queers at the expense of the exclusion of sexual and racial others”?


Homonationalism involves conceptually aligning the ideas invested within the realm of LGBT activism to fit the goals and ideologies of neoliberalism and the far-right. This reframing 1s used primarily to justify and rationalize racist and xenophobic perspectives.

“Homonationalism is thus a structuring facet of modernity (rather than an aberration or “liberalism gone bad”) and a historical shift marked by the entrance of (some) homosexual bodies as worthy of protection by nation-states, a constitutive and fundamental reorientation of the relationship between the state, capitalism, and sexuality. This historical moment can be called homonational to the extent that one must engage homonationalism in the first place as the condition of possibility for national and transnational politics. And herein lies the ugliness of homonationalism, its bifocal capacity in one instance to attach and entrench bodies even more deeply to the disciplinary force of sexuality through its offerings and yet still enact a convincing yet brutal liberalism against others in the very name of this attachment.” 


- Jasbir Puar, in Terrorist Assemblages


Pinkwashing and the homonationalism are a ruse far-right fascist forces use to distract from the gravity of the egregious human rights violations in Kashmir and normalization of islamophobia in a secular country. Thus, instances of pinkwashing and homonationalism must be denounced with a comprehensive understanding of the complex intersections of oppressive systems in mind. 


Our fight for rights and representation must address the multi-facted existence of oppression in India and the many other oppressive systems we function within, on the grounds of caste, class, religion and gender, and organise to dismantle.


“All systems of oppression reinforce one another, and none can be fought in isolation. One cannot advocate for queer and trans people in the US while supporting Israel’s daily aggression against queer and trans-Palestinians, whose oppression is compounded by multiple marginalized identities.


Oppression becomes compounded because state violence—including militarism, occupation, the proliferation of prisons, and economic neocolonialism— is both gendered and racialized. In cases of settler-colonialism, such as Palestine and Turtle Island (present North America), Indigenous women, and queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks—and especially those at the intersections of those identities— bear the brunt of the nexus of these systems of oppression. It is impossible to seriously address sexual and intimate partner violence within communities of color without addressing those larger structures.”