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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘We were forced to strip to prove our identity’: Transgenders arrested in Tripura file complaint

They were also allegedly forced to submit a written undertaking saying they would not “cross dress” ever again and threatened arrest if they did so.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: January 11, 2022 5:54:19 pm
Transpersons flaunt the rainbow flag in front of the Agartala Press Club. (Express photo by Debraj Deb)

Two days after Tripura Police arrested four transgender individuals on their way back from a party at a city-based hotel here, the community alleged those arrested were stripped inside the police station in order to prove their gender. They were also allegedly forced to submit a written undertaking saying they would not “cross dress” ever again and threatened arrest if they did so.

The assaulted transgender individuals also complained about violation of rights provided under Section 377, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment of the Supreme Court and the Right to Privacy judgment and filed a complaint at West Agartala police station Monday evening seeking “proper justice”.

Speaking to reporters at the Agartala Press Club, Sneha Gupta Roy, an LGBTQIA+ rights activist and a transgender herself, said, “A few videos of the incident were purportedly shot by a few journalists are now doing the rounds on social media, leading the members of the community to face social stigma.”

“Whatever happened to the victims has caused harm to the whole community mentally and emotionally. People have to learn to be more inclusive of non-binary identities of human beings,” she said.

Recounting the harrowing experience, 19-year-old Mohini said, “We are professional make-up artists and had gone to a hotel for a DJ party like others on January 8. On our way back home around 10:40 pm, four of us were stopped by a person who claimed to be a reporter and a few police officials. They ridiculed our dress code and mentally harassed us by taunting and bullying us. We were later taken to West Agartala Women police station and forced to undress by the women policemen in presence of a few male personnel around 11:30 in the night.”

The transgender individuals also alleged they were walked to the nearby West Agartala Police Station in that cold wintry night around 11:45 pm. Here, Mohini and her friends — Sangam, Raj and Tapas — were purportedly made to sit on the ground and denied eatables or water.

“The most embarrassing and hurtful incident was that the officials kept our wigs and inner garments at the West police station,” the complaint filed at West Agartala Police Station said.

Mohini and her friends said they were accused of extorting people with false gender identity without any proof. “We ask for a proper justice against this illegal and shameful incident and demand for a legal action against the journalist and the police officials,” the complaint further read.

Advocate Nilanjana Roy, who is consulting the aggrieved trans-persons on the issue, said the incident is not violation of transgender rights alone but a gross denial of human rights. “Cross-dressing can’t be considered a crime in any lawsuit. It’s a matter of struggle for existence and identity. We will fight all legal battles to get justice,” the counsel said.

Siddhartha Sankar, a rights activist, said awareness about the LGBTQIA+ community is invisible in Tripura and said social orientation on the community is necessary to garner support through campaigns.

Rights activist and cultural artist Amit Kumar Choudhury said, “It’s a matter of utter shame for the people of the state that in 2022, the LGBTQ community is still a taboo and has to face atrocities due to mere ignorance.”

Movie actor, danseuse and activist Raaikotha condemned the incident and said, “Womanhood is not in body but in the mind. Gender identity is an individual choice and there was no right of anyone to violate this in this manner. It’s so shameful.”

A key functionary of the state government, who didn’t wish to be named, said, “I have heard about the issue. It’s very unfortunate. It’s supposed to be a humanitarian issue, not a harrowing experience.”

No official of the West Agartala Police Station was available for comments.

Transgender rights activist Sneha Gupta Roy speaks to reporters. (Express photo by Debraj Deb)

However, a senior official of Tripura Police informed that a report was sought on the subject. “I was told the police made the arrests under Section 151 with provisions of preventive arrest. I am not sure on what grounds they were arrested,” the official said.

He added, the aggrieved people should appear before the human rights protection authorities or the police accountability commission and said, “If anyone is responsible, they should not be spared.”

The journalist who was accused of harassing the trans people told The Indian Express he wasn’t aware of LGBTQ rights and claimed he didn’t run the news on his media organization.

“I didn’t run the news after I realised the issue. But a few other media organisations covered the story and since I was the only one asking questions, my voice was heard in the video and I am being blamed. I am sorry for whatever happened,” he said. He added he was informed by someone about some people cheating others with fake identities so he rushed to cover it.

Meanwhile, some of the videos were deleted from online platforms after the community sought intervention of the Agartala Press Club. But there are still many viral videos doing the rounds, the victims said and sought intervention of the police to get them deleted at the earliest.

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