Controversy
‘Her position negates the politics of communal harmony that is espoused by Hijras and Kinnars,’ states a statement released by the community.
PTI (File)

Days after Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the representative of the Kinnar Akhada voiced support for a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, a statement has been issued by Indian trans, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals and groups condemning her remarks. At the time of its release, the statement has been endorsed by a total of 183 trans, intersex and gender nonconforming individuals, 20 LGBTQIA+ groups, 8 ally organisations and 146 individual allies at the time of its release.

“Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a dominant-caste brahmin trans woman, has been appealing to Hindutva ideology and justifying the existence of the caste system in India ever since she began aspiring for a political position within the current ruling party. Her position negates the politics of communal harmony that is espoused by Hijras and Kinnars, who have historically maintained a syncretic faith of belonging to both Hinduism and Islam. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi’s position idealises a mythical past of the Sanatan Dharam and supports the right-wing politics of communal hatred in the guise of ‘we were always accepted’,” says the statement.

The statement adds that instead of challenging the very source of structural discrimination within patriarchy, such attempts to seek legitimization of the third gender along religious lines is nothing less than ‘gross competitive politics’.

“Several transgender people are already experiencing marginalization from the imposition of a religiously rooted third-gender identity in state policy upon all the various binary and non-binary identities under the transgender umbrella, even though the NALSA vs. Union of India (2014) judgment clearly states that people have equal rights and freedoms to choose their own identity irrespective of religious or physiological factors,” the statement says.

The statement goes on to state that the same ‘communal politics’ led to the criminalisation of multi-religious system of joint living and traditional system of begging practised by the Hijra community in its Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

“The Bill’s proposed screening of trans bodies and its declaration that rape and assault of trans bodies would be more lightly punished than sexual assaults upon cisgender women, was a move in the spirit of the same Manuvadi patriarchy that creates a hierarchy of legal measures which depend on the social locations of the victims and perpetrators. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 adds even greater punitive measures for the system of organized begging and even punishes trans people who might help one another access medical transition. The bills, along with Kinnar Akhara’s statement, will deepen divisions and increase oppression for most transgender persons while also damaging the secular fabric of Hijra and transgender communities,” the statement says.

“This is evidenced by the government’s singular approach of consulting Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and trans persons from within the religious fold for the ongoing LGBTIQ related bills, the formation of an LGBT-related group within the National Human Rights Commission [NHRC], and so on. We emphatically contest this assumption of representation and declare that she and other trans persons representing religious bodies do not represent the vast array of trans & gender-diverse communities of India,” it adds.

The statement also calls upon the larger LGBTIQ+ communities, allies and international human rights defenders and organisations to take notice and join them in taking a stand against the attempts at the ‘saffronisation’ of the LGBTQI+ communities.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a batch of petitions on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute from January 2019. Right-wing outfits have, however, demanded that a law be passed or an ordinance been brought in for the construction of the Ram Temple at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.

The Indian Express on November 6 had reported that the Kinnar Akhada in a meeting with the Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti spoke supported the demand for such a law or ordinance.