A transgender woman died in suspicious circumstances at the Kilpauk Medical College hospital in Chennai on Wednesday morning. Tara, a 28-year-old transgender woman who was working as an Outreach worker with many NGOs including Sahodaran and Sinegathi, was found severely burnt outside the Pondy Bazaar police station.
Angel Glady, a friend of Tara’s and a Board Member of an NGO called Tozhi, told The News Minute that Tara told her the sequence of events leading to her immolation before she died. Angel said that Tara had gone to Pondy Bazaar from her residence in Nungambakkam at around 4am to recharge her phone at a 24-hour shop there. Police from the Pondy Bazaar station stopped Tara and accused her of soliciting customers for sex work. They confiscated her mobile phone and the keys of her vehicle.
When Tara argued back, Angel alleged, the police assaulted her. They then took her to the police station for questioning, where they allegedly assaulted her again. At around 4.30am, Tara called two of her friends Aarti and Diya and told them that the police had taken away her phone and keys and were arguing with her in the station.
When the two friends came looking for Tara at around 5am, they found her lying in the compound of the police station severely burnt. They immediately rushed her to the Kilpauk Medical College hospital, where doctors told them that Tara had suffered 95% burns. By 10am, Tara died in the hospital.
Members of the transgender community allege that the circumstances in which Tara died are suspicious. Her friends have raised the question of where Tara got petrol to immolate herself when her vehicle keys had been confiscated.
Moreover, they allege that the police had refused to show them CCTV footage of Tara’s immolation.
Following Tara’s death, members of the transgender community protested outside the Pondy Bazaar police station and the KMC hospital.
They also submitted a petition to the State Human Rights Commission.
Anushree (22), a volunteer in Tozhi, told TNM, “We do not feel safe while going out at night. The police are supposed to protect us. But they always abuse us and mock our gender.”
Angel similarly said, “For transgender people, their gender orientation is a very sensitive issue. But the police keep mocking us for it.”
When TNM tried to speak to the officials at the Pondy Bazaar police station, the reporter was not allowed inside the police station.
Sources in the police department however countered this version and maintained that Tara was inebriated.