Saleem Kidwai, scholar of medieval Indian history, author and a trailblazing gay rights activist passed away on Monday in Lucknow at the age of 70.
Awadh Pride Lucknow announced Kidwai's passing on social media. "We are deeply saddened to inform you that Saleem Kidwai is no more. It's a great loss to us. He was and still is inspiration to all. He will truly be missed and forever remembered."
"Saleem Kidwai was an author, a historian, a researcher, a teacher, and above all - a friend, philosopher and guide," said Suhail Abbasi, chairperson of The Humsafar Trust. "He was an 'out and proud' activist, at a time when not many in Indian academia were out. Saleem's contribution to the gay movement of India remains significant and remarkable. Lucknow will never be the same again without him."
Kidwai was best known for the momentous book Same – Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History in 2000, which he co-edited with Ruth Vanita. Vivek Anand, CEO, The Humsafar Trust descibed the book as "one of the most powerful documents of LGBTQ+ representation in Indian culture."
This book is a collection of translations from texts written in 15 Indian languages over a period of more than 2000 years, accompanied by editorial essays analysing and contextualising the texts. The essays in the book have been hailed as works of outstanding scholarship by historians. The book challenged the stereotype that Indian tradition has always been too conservative/ puritan to allow any homoerotic exploration.
"In 2000, when Same-Sex Love in India (edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai) came out, it became not just an instant classic but a source of strength for the LGBTQ community," said journalist Nilanjana Roy on Twitter.
In 2000, when Same-Sex Love in India (edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai) came out, it became not just an instant classic but a source of strength for the LGBTQ community.— Nilanjana Roy ???????? (@nilanjanaroy) August 30, 2021
It's hard to accept that Saleem is gone; he was just 70. Here he is with Shahid and Begum Akhtar. pic.twitter.com/R0h7jQ5UQQ
The LGBTQI+ community and fellow academics took to social media to pay tributes to Kidwai. Screenwriter and film editor Apurva Asrani acknowldeged Kidwai's insights while writing the screenplay for the film Aligarh.
"We have lost a great historian and academic whose work for India's LGBTQ is unparalleled. Saleem Kidwai came out publicly when few dared to, and had co-authored the pioneering 'Same-Sex Love in India'. I am eternally grateful for his insights during the writing of Aligarh," said Asrani.
We have lost a great historian & academic whose work for India's LGBTQ is unparalleled. #SaleemKidwai came out publicly when few dared to, and had co-authored the pioneering 'Same-Sex Love in India'. I am eternally grateful for his insights during the writing of #Aligarh. RIP ???? pic.twitter.com/43LPPlNEGx— Apurva (@Apurvasrani) August 30, 2021
Born in 1951 in Lucknow, Kidwai 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. After his retirement he pursued individual research and writing in Lucknow. Besides Same-Sex Love In India, Kidwai also translated singer Mallika Pukhraj’s autobiography, “Song Sung True.”
Kidwai's body will be taken to his home in Mahanagat and will be buried in his native village pf Badagaon in Baranbaki.