It is the month of November and Transgender Day of Remembrance is just round the corner. Annually, Nov 20 is the day to memorialize those who have been murdered of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Tara, a 28-year-old transgender woman who was found severely burnt outside of Pondy Bazaar police station in Chennai and later died at Kilpauk Medical College on November 9 will be the latest addition to this list . It is indeed important to honor the dead and bring attention to the continued violence, but how would you transform the practices of a society that deny the very existence of the transgender community on day to day basis?
Transgender people in India are breaking new grounds at every level but it is such an irony that they need to be shielded from the very men in kakhi who are entitled to protect them. Over and again studies reveal that the biggest perpetrators of violence against transgender people are Police and law enforcing authorities. In Tara’s case there are several questions that remain unanswered when we swallow the Police version of suicide with out a pinch of salt. If at all Tara had any intention to commit suicide, why would she do it in front of a Police station? Ain’t the police supposed to take action when someone self-immolates in front of them? Who fetched her petrol in the wee hours of the day? Police had stopped her early in the morning accusing her of soliciting for sex work while she was trying to recharge her mobile phone. In a video clip ,which in all probability shot by a Policeman and circulated by the Police themselves, Tara is seen arguing with them. The conversation goes on like this
Tara: Sir, give back my mobile phone and bike.
Police: We can’t give. Do what you can.
Tara: I won’t go from here.
Police: Bloody ombodu* , how dare you throw stones at a sub-inspecter ?
(*Ombodu – number 9, a derogatory term used on transwomen and gender non-conforming males)
Tara: Sir, I don’t know anything about it. You give me the bike, I am leaving this place.
Police: We can’t, what will you do?
It should be noted that the police use male pronoun to address Tara all along. She then sits in front of the police station and tries to cut her throat with a stone.
Tara: “I am bleeding, please give back my bike”;
Police: “Chi, get out, go and die”.
If the Police had recorded this piece of video, why isn’t there a video recording of the incident that led to Tara’s immolation? One Policeman is seen in the video asking how dare she throw a stone at an SI. Now who is that Inspector he is referring to and what is his connection with this incident? Activist Grace Banu (who has been reporting this whole violence on social media, while the mainstream media was busy ‘Trump’ing and ‘Modi’fying) had been informed that the CCTV camera wasn’t working from October 27, when she asked to show the footage. More you dig, more the solid pieces of evidnece surface. It was nothing but murder, Tara was murdered by the Police.
Half a million strong transgender community according to 2011 census, has always endured police violence in this country. Some of the colonial laws that still exist have crudest provisions making transpeople vulnerable to the Police harassment, violence and extortion. Let alone the basic sensitivity towards the rights of transgender communities, Police do not even seem to treat them as fellow-humans. The Police violence is in fact the reflection of the larger prejudice of Indian society towards the transgender community.
Nearly two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that transgender people should be recognized as seperate gender attacks against transpeople continue to increase.
This feudal, casteist, patriarchal, class-divided Indian society has always been denying the constitutional rights to transgender people, including their rights to vote, own property, to marry, and to claim a formal identity document like passport . They have never been able to avail the benefits of various welfare schemes such as subsidised food, education, employment, or healthcare. This ultimately pushes them either to beggery or sex work, exposing them to the violent interventions of the law enforcement authorities. One has to remember that Tara’s has been murdered in Tamil Nadu, the only state in the country which has a functioning Transgender Welfare Board .
It is such a shame that we are living in a world where in every three days, one transgender person is reportedly murdered of hate.None of us are innocent. We are accountable. Let us not let the Police get away with yet another murder, not anymore . No one should be subjected to violence because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The dead cannot cry out for justice, It is the duty of the living to do so for them.
(With the inputs from LGBT Activists Gee Semmalar, Grace Banu and Moulee)