Police purging hijras out of Bengaluru

Police purging hijras out of Bengaluru

Police subject hijras and human rights defenders to illegal detention and arrests, custodial torture and sexual assault

As India progresses, reaching out to the moon, Bengaluru has become a dangerous city for its citizens. especially the most vulnerable, and any one who dares to support them. In the last few weeks, there seems to be a drive against hijras in particular and any person without a secure place of work or livelihood security. These vulnerable people are being arrested, beaten and harassed by the police. In an age where street dogs and cattle are being enumerated, government employees are getting massive pay hikes, the transgenders are seen as totally unworthy of any attention. There is neither any data of how many people we are talking about and a total blank on how they can meet their basic needs to survive with dignity. Housing, health support and ration cards are a distant dream for them. The only recognition that these sections of society get is when they are targeted by the police in drives like these. In our beautiful city that needs to be sold to investors and welcome tourists there is no place for many of us. It is only a matter of time when we are targeted.

Arrest and Abuse of 5 Hijras: At 11am on 20th October, police catch 5 hijras near a traffic signal in the Girinagar police station limits and take them to the police station. In the station, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), H. T. Ramesh beats one of them with a lathi, breaks her bangles and makes her bleed. Police force another hijra to clean the floor of the police station. Police later charge them with false charges under section 341 (wrongful restraint) and 384 (extortion) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). They were produced before the magistrate at 7:30 pm and were sent into judicial custody. All through this the hijras were handled by policemen and no medical treatment is given to the injured hijra in police or judicial custody. These 5 people were released on bail on 22nd October, 2008.

Arrest and Torture of Sangama Crisis Team Members: On receiving a phone call from the 5 hijras in the police detention, 5 activists of the Crisis Team (Madesh, Dilfaraz, Savitha, Sahana and Kokila) of Sangama, a sexual minority human rights and health organization visit Girinagar police station and enquire about the detention of 5 hijras. On request from the police the crisis team members go to the Banashankari police station and meet the ACP and the Police Inspector (PI) Shivashankara Murthi to resolve the problem. The ACP and PI were abusive and behave in a derogatory manner without any provocation. Their verbal abuses include “Are you a man or woman?” “Take out all your clothes, let me check what you have there?” “Check if he is wearing an underwear?” “Strip them” “How dare you come to my area to support hijras” “Do you make blue films?” “Are you beggars?” “Ganchalli thorisidhare nimmannoo olagade haakthivi”. The ACP slaps Dilfaraz four times and asks police to arrest the activists and book them under ganja-apheem case. The PI slaps Madesh two times. PI keeps a big wooden block on Madesh’s head, the ACP said ‘Oh you have taken centre crop, I will beat you here and your head will break in the centre’

On receiving a phone call from the crisis team members Chandini and Rosy (activists from Sangama) reach the Banashankari Police Station at around 3pm. At this point the Banashankari police brutally attack Madesh and Dilfaraz with hands and lathis, kick them and drag them into a police van and move them to Girinagar police station by force. When police men come near Savitha, Sahana and Kokila to hit them, the activists warn the police of the serious consequences of policemen touching women. The police back off. In Girinagar police station, policemen sexually abuse Madesh and Dilfaraz in the name of finding if they were male or female. Later Girinagar police detain Savitha, Sahana and Kokila along with Madesh and Dilfaraz. All of them were booked under Section 143 (unlawful assembly), 145 (joining unlawful assembly ordered to be dispersed) and 353 (obstructing government officials in performing their duty) of the IPC. They were produced before the magistrate at 8.45 PM and were sent into judicial custody. These 5 crisis team members were released on bail on 22nd October, 2008.

Human Rights Activists gather at the Banashankari Police Station: On hearing this around 150 human rights activists and lawyers from various organizations working on issues of women, dalits, workers, communalism, environment, health, sexual minorities, sexworkers and so on gathered outside the Banashankari police station. Activists tried to negotiate with the ACP and PI unsuccessfully twice to get Madesh and Dilfaraz back. At around 7pm activists started a peaceful protest in front of the police station and start shouting slogans against police atrocities.

Illegal detention and Custodial Torture of 6 activists: At 7:30pm, on the ACP’s request a delegation of 6 six activists start a dialogue with the police officials inside the station. The delegation includes Manohar (Karnataka Sexworkers Union, founder of Sangama), Yashoda (Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedike), Sumathi (Sufi singer, member of LesBiT), Jayaram (Garment and Textile Workers Union), Chandini (Sangama), Sowmya (Samara). The ACP and PI said ‘It was wrong to hit people in our custody. We know that. We are asked by the senior officials to beat them up. Leave your people and go home. We will not release them even if you go to the Chief Minister. We have orders from the senior officials to round up all hijras on the streets of Bengaluru and book them under extortion cases. We are only following the instructions of our seniors. You go out and do a protest in front of Police Commissioner’s Office’. When questioned about the unlawful actions of the police the ACP shouted ‘arrest these people and beat them up’. The ACP, PI and a few other policemen brutally hit the delegation members with hands and lathis on their neck, legs and back and pushed them into the lockup. At around 8:30pm ACP, PI and 2 other policemen get the six delegates out of the lockup and hit them brutally and sexually assault 4 women and hijras. These activists have to fight a lot even to access drinking water and toilet facilities. At around 11pm police leave these delegates without any charges.

Lathi charge on peaceful protesters and arrest of 31 activists: At around 7:45 pm, after illegally detaining 6 delegates, police came out and started beating up people holding cameras and chased them away to prevent recording of any proof of police excesses. Police declared that they were arresting the activists and asked them to get into the police vehicles. When activists demanded the release of the 6 delegates in the lockup, policemen brutally and mercilessly attacked activists (women, men and transgenders). Policemen pushed 31 activists (including 1 hijra, 3 female-to-male transsexuals, 9 women and 18 men) into a small van. They were made to suffer for 7 hours inside a small van and were not even given food to eat. They were under extreme stress, almost dehydrated and suffocated by this ordeal, finally they were provided a can of water by midnight. All of them were booked under Section 143 (unlawful assembly), 145 (joining an unlawful assembly ordered to dispersed) and 353 (obstructing government officials in performing their duty) and were taken to the residence of the magistrate. Senior advocate BT Venkatesh and a number of human rights lawyers were waiting near the residence when the activists were brought. The police went into the residence of the magistrate and came back and without producing the activities they tried to take back the accused in the van. BT Venkatesh and other advocates immediately stopped the police van and protested this and demanded that accused be immediately produced before the magistrate. Police’s ploy was to avoid magistrate recording the assault and violence committed by police on the activists. At 1:30am after all the protests the police were forced to produce the accused before the magistrate. The magistrate informed BT Venkatesh and other lawyers that the police informed him that they were no advocates present and that there were large contingent of protesters. After recording the details of the assaults suffered by the accused the magistrate directed the police to take them to Bowring hospital for medical examinations as most of them sustained major injuries due to police violence. These 31 activists were released on bail on 22nd evening. Police starved these people and denied them medicines when they were in 20-hour long police custody .

Campaign for Sexual Minorities Rights launched: The Girinagar and Banashankari police actions show their complete disregard to the laws of the land. Brutal police attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protestors is a clear violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution. These actions threaten our democracy itself. In this context we came together to launch the ‘campaign for sexual minorities rights’ to defend fundamental rights of sexual minorities. The campaign will dialogue with social movements and expand public discourse for equal rights and non-discrimination. We appeal to all democratic forces to join us in this struggle to reform the colonial police attitudes towards hijra community and to sensitize society on hijra issues.

Our Demands:

1. Dismiss the guilty police including H. T. Ramesh (ACP) and M. Shivashankara Murthi (PI); and prosecute them for the crimes (assault, abuse, sexual assault and illegal detention) committed against human rights defenders
2. Take immediate steps to stop the brutal police violence (physical and sexual) against hijras and sexworkers in Bengaluru and punish the perpetrators of violence
3. Protect the rights of hijra community for their traditional livelihood options including sexwork and blessings, or provide them with a reasonable option.
4. Initiate immediate measures to fulfil the obligations of the government so that hijras and other transsexuals have access to education, employment, health, housing, sex-change procedures, savings and credit facilities etc.

Quote in police custody: ACP HT Ramesh keeps a big wooden block on Madesh’s head and says:
‘Oh you have taken centre crop, I will beat you here and your head will break in the centre’

Campaign for Sexual Minorities Rights
No. 9 ABABIL, Patel Cheluvappa Street, J C Nagar (MR Palya), Bengaluru - 6, India, Phone: 23438840/43, Mobile: 9845165143, Email: advocacysangama@gmail.com

(Constituents: Alternative Law Forum, Aneka, Environment Support Group, Garment and Textile Workers Union, Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, Jyothi Mahila Sangha, Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedike, Karnataka Komusouhardha Vedike, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum, Karnataka Sexworkers Union, LesBiT, Lawyers Collective, Openspace, Pedestrian Pictures, People’s Democratic Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Sadhane, Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Sadhana Mahila Gumpu, Samara, Samvada, Sanchaya Nele, Sangama, Suraksha, Vijaya Mahila Sangha, Vimochana and many other individuals and organizations)

Living Conditions of Hijras: Hijras are one of the most stigmatized and marginalized sections of our society. Most of them discontinue their education due to physical and sexual harassment in schools. Most of them migrate to big cities and join hijra communities after their families and neighbors reject them. They are denied inheritance. As they cannot afford expensive sex-change procedures they go for nirvan (surgical removal of penis and testicles) and live as women. Lack of education coupled with severe sexual harassment in workplaces denies them most employment opportunities that are available to others. Most of them survive by the traditional occupations of sexwork and blessings. As they need to be on the streets for these occupations they become easy prey for the police and goondas.

They are ridiculed in public spaces – bus/train, public toilets, cinema halls, public parks, markets, places of worship and hospitals. They are forced to live in the slums in the city outskirts. Most of them are denied voting rights, ration cards, bank accounts, insurance, driving license and old age pension. They have to pay more than others for house rent and auto rickshaw travel. They are not treated like citizens, and not even like human beings. No wonder that most of them carry low self-esteem and depend heavily on alcohol. Who is responsible for this? Their transgender desire or our social intolerance?