In a shocking incident that reeks of transphobia, a trans woman was brutally attacked by a mob in Kerala on Sunday night.
27-year-old Varsha*, a trans woman was attacked by a mob in Thiruvananthapuram's Valiyathura, after the local residents accused her of being a man who had come in the disguise of a woman to abduct children.
In the video of the attack that has since sparked widespread outrage, a group of men can be seen mobbing Varsha, who is dressed in a blue salwar. Constantly pushing and beating her, the men pull off her wig and ask her if she's a man or a woman. A frail Varsha tries to break free from her attackers, but in vain.
"Why have you come here in this dress?" one of the attackers demands to know.
The uncouth crowd then proceeds to tear off her clothes.
At this point, a few voices can be heard shouting to stop the beating, but the attackers do not pause and continue to pull her hair. Soon, a few police personnel can be seen making their way towards Varsha, even as she is subjected to the beating.
The Valiyathura police, who managed to rescue Varsha from the mob, rushed her to a hospital. She was then taken to the police station.
No case registered against attackers
Though the video is glaring proof of the brutal attack that Varsha went through, the police say that they have not recorded any cases against the attackers.
"We brought Varsha to the station and informed her parents this morning. After they came, we have let her off with her parents. She did not want to complain, because she knows that she is also at fault," the sub-inspector told TNM.
Asked what Varsha's "fault" was, he said that "everybody knew" why transgender persons turned up at such places in the night.
He claimed that false messages which spread on social media about child abduction gangs being rampant in the state had caused panic among the people.
"One of the messages said men will come dressed as women and kidnap the children. The area is a fishing colony and some of the locals found Varsha standing alone at the shore at 8 pm.They mistook her for being a kidnapper and manhandled her. More people gathered and they began to question her," the police officer said.
Transgender community reacts
Even as the police maintain that they cannot register a case against the attackers since Varsha refused to file a complaint, the transgender community has given a complaint to the commissioner on Monday.
Oasis Cultural Society, a collective of transgender persons, in its complaint has demanded that the people involved in attacking Varsha be arrested.
Diya Sana, a transgender activist, said that the recent attacks on the transgender community have been nothing short of disturbing.
"This needs to stop. Along with a few community members, I am also going to Valiyathura on Monday night. We all have freedom of movement in public spaces," she said.
Sexual and Gender Minority Federation state president Sreekutty lashed out at the attitude of the police in handling the incident.
"We met the sub inspector yesterday and are shocked by his response. He told us that people in the area will respond like this when they see ‘our people’. What did he mean? Should transgender persons be ostracised by society? Are men and women hanging identity cards around their necks to assert their identity? Why is it needed for trans persons only?” asks an agitated Sreekutty.
She points out that the attack on Varsha was brutal.
"Even the media and those who shot the video are portraying the incident as a trans person trying to abduct a child and getting beaten up in the process. Even if the people see a person trying to do a crime, why don’t they call up the police and hand over the person rather than brutally beating them up?” she asks.
Further commenting on the status of trans persons in Kerala, Sreekutty says, "We met the DGP this morning. He said it’s all because of the people’s fear that there are groups to abduct children. So what is our fault? The government and the DGP are trying to put the blame on some other issue rather than assuring protection for our community. The Finance Minister has been allocating Rs 10 crore for trans persons in every budget, but not a single rupee is being spent for us. Spend some money to create awareness on who transgender people are. The educated Kerala society fails to understand what a third gender is. There are state and district level transgender justice boards. But they are mere spectators without having the right to interfere in such issues. We will lodge a complaint with higher officials."
Sheetal, another transgender activist, said, "Why do we need a Chief Minister and a state if there is no action in such issues? The people had also attacked the police. The police should take suo motto action as the faces of the assailants are clear from the video. What is the logic in attacking someone solely because she or he doesn’t have an identity card? Though Varsha hails from Thriuvananthapuam, she doesn’t have support from the family. She had gone to Valiyathura since she doesn’t have a place to sleep. She also is undergoing some mental health issues, the attack made her mental state worse. We are helping her to come out of it."
*Name changed to protect privacy