‘Padmavati’ Row: Why Make Alauddin Khilji’s Bisexuality the Issue?

Should Alauddin Khilji’s sexuality become an issue in the ‘Padmavati’ controversy?

3 min read
Alauddin Khilji’s cruel and oppressive ways should not be linked to his sexuality. 

This opinion piece is not about Rani Padmini of Chittor. It’s about Alauddin Khilji, a ruthless invader, who may or may not have been bisexual. Sexuality of heroes, historical figures and gods is always a touchy subject, and while I don’t condone the attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I’m mature enough to understand how unsubstantiated rumours about a kiss in a dream sequence between a legendary queen and a cruel emperor, spread faster than the truth and how damaging its impact can be. While Bhansali has since then clarified that there is no such scene in the movie, I understand why different parties in this story feel and act the way they do. What I fail to understand is how one’s sexuality can be linked to their moral compass?

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I have been pouring over the Twitter outrage following the attack on SLB. As one after the other, India’s “sickulars” and “libtards” started expressing their ire and displayed solidarity with SLB, the sanskaar brigade almost magically united and in their bid to fight back, spewed venom about Khilji’s dalliances with boy toys.

I’m offended by the tweets about Khilji’s relationship with his male lover Malick Kafoor that appear to suggest that Khilji’s bisexuality was somehow the reason for his ruthlessness. One columnist in a major national daily even demanded proper representation of facts which includes a depiction of Khilji’s romance with Kafoor and dared the filmmaker to make a film about that. While, I like the idea of a non-heterosexual love story, I was pained by the shade these hate tweets took.

I take offence to any group of people being called evil because of their alleged “sexually deviant” behaviour. I mean, first of all, why is every other kind of sexuality other than heterosexuality considered “deviant”? It is a well-documented fact that the sexual spectrum is vivid among not just humans but also animals. Secondly, how does this alleged “deviation from the norm” affect one’s ability to differentiate between right and wrong? How is Khilji’s bisexuality relevant? As I have said on countless occasions, “normal” is also a stereotype. So, can we stop using that word to describe heterosexual people, given how it implies people of other sexualities are abnormal?

Bisexuals are people. And even within the LGBT community, they are perhaps the most misunderstood. Most people see them as greedy sex maniacs unable to be a part of long term committed relationships based on true love. That’s not true. Being bisexual just means one is attracted to men and women (and all genders). It does not mean bisexuals are incapable of monogamous relationships. A bisexual person doesn’t have two lovers by default, though I know many people (both straight and gay) who would love to have two lovers!

Bisexuals are as compassionate or as heartless as the next person you meet. Ask yourself, would Khilji have been kinder had he been straight? People are people. Love is love. Evil is evil. And a murderous king is a murderous king. Nobody is debating if Khilji was a bloodthirsty conqueror. He lacked empathy, humanity and decency. We’ve all read about how he slaughtered thousands of people in one night and even hung out their heads to threaten others into submission.

Also, look at what he did to Kafoor. According to what we know, Khilji purchased Kafoor as a slave in Gujarat, then had him castrated with no regard for Kafoor’s own consent or sexuality. Kafoor was a sex slave who may or may not have fallen in love with his captor. Was his a case of Stockholm syndrome or did he allow the king to sexually exploit him to stay alive and extract his revenge on a later date? After all, according to a school of history, it was Kafoor who eventually masterminded Khilji’s death.

So, in conclusion Alauddin Khilji was a bad man. He was cruel to both, the woman he could not have and the man he thought he loved. But his cruelty had nothing to do with his sexuality. So let’s not make it out to sound like it was.

And what’s more offensive than the reaction to bisexuality?

Well, on an entirely different note… this

RGV, I take offence to comparing humble stray dogs to the Karni Sena.

(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals.)

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