An account of a widespread protest against the parliamentary Trans Bill 2018 which would have a negative impact on the transgender community if passed.
Amidst posters and hoardings criticising the controversial Trans Bill, a corner of Jantar Mantar was filled with a crowd, a crowd questioning parliamentary amendments and personal stereotypes. They were the trans-people from all over the country, proud of their identity and raging at the proposal of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill. And not only members of the transgender community, college students, activist, laypersons also joined the procession. Some of the provisions of this Bill which are cited as “biased” and “unfair” are that members of the transgender community would be subjected to a screening committee to have their gender assessed and it also reduces the punishment of convicts in sexual crimes against them, among other things. South India Transgender Federation had a major presence in the protest but activists from other states like Manipur, Maharashtra, and Haryana were also present.
Jatin, an alumnus of the University of Delhi says, “As a theatre actor, I have often worked on productions that revolve around queer issues, but after some point, you realise that theatre is just talking. By coming here, I am trying to show the little support that I can from my own side. It’s important to be physically present for the protests about which you preach via your art form.” Jatin’s point gets clearer in the face of a need for students to get educated and know more about the issues that ostracised groups face in their city, in their country. “The problem lies in the education. It’s like we are brought up to mock transgender people or just look at them as if they’re criminals even if they are just earning their living”, another college student remarked.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien highlighted how the Mamta Bannerjee government in Bengal is working towards the betterment of trans persons and guaranteed that this controversial Bill would definitely not be passed at Rajya Sabha (receiving several cheers). His monologue ended with “Do hazaar unees, BJP finish!” (BJP’s rule over in 2019!).
Politics aside, this protest represented a struggle for personal rights. Radhika Naik from Tamil Nadu questioned how the government can impose a Bill on determining trans identity without consulting transgender people. “The police beats us if we beg and sometimes for just wandering. Tell me isn’t this harassment? And if someone really harms us, how can we even go to the police? We live in troubled times. The government gives us a ration card and voter ID card but that’s just equality for the namesake. You give us cards but what about our basic rights, what about our roti (food), kapda (clothing), and makaan (shelter),?” Radhika said on an emotional note. “More than the government’s perspective, it’s the people’s perspective that matters and this will ultimately influence the government,” Selvi Naik, Radhika’s friend added.
Radha Chatterjee from West Bengal complained about how the government can’t as much as make separate seats or washrooms for the third gender, leave alone other facilities. Still, on an optimistic note, Radha added how the revolution will live on and these protests will turn nationwide. “They’ll call us chutiyas, but if you think of us as chutiyas then let us be chutiyas! We will still fight. You see even though we have faced atrocities, we are still surviving. My guru survives as a trans, I have survived as a trans since a teen, and we all will live on no matter what,” this statement probably captures the optimism that everyone felt in this protest.
After shouting slogans and singing rebel songs, the mood turned light as several drum players arrived at the scene. And for a brief moment, many joined from the crowd dancing merrily on the beats of the drums, melting the anger into a celebration of collective struggle and hope for a better future.
Feature Image Credits: Shaurya Singh Thapa for DU Beat.
Shaurya Singh Thapa