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Agartala: Three days after four transgender persons alleged that they were forced to strip in a police station, Tripura Police has claimed that they held the four for wearing “girl costumes” and failing to offer “satisfactory replies” when asked why.
On Saturday night four persons belonging to LGBTQIA+ community were detained by Tripura Police. The four said they were forced to strip in the police station. They also said that on Monday morning, they had to submit a forceful undertaking saying they would not “cross dress” ever again. Police allegedly told them that they would be arrested if they did.
The Wire is withholding the names of the four persons.
What has happened that night
Recounting the night of January 8, one of the four – a 19-year old – said at around 10.40 pm, the four were returning home from a programme held at Agartala city.
“By the time we reached Melarmath which is around 1 km from our hotel, a reporter and a few police officials charged us about our dress. They asked us what we were, whether we are boys or girls and why we were all wearing clothes meant for women. They began harassing us by taunting us about character and clothing,” the 19-year-old said.
“They were trying to touch our waists and taunting us. We did not entertain them but they followed us and detained all of us,” M said.
Once they were taken to West Women Police Station, the four were asked to undress by women police in the presence of few policemen at around 11.30 pm.
“We were forced to take off our shirts and were then walked to West Police Station in the cold, at around 11.45 pm,” one of the four said.
At the West Police Station there were 12 or 13 police officials, including men and women.
“There we were again harassed and asked to disclose our gender. They asked us continuously to take off our clothes and show them ‘what we are’. As we were hungry, we kept on telling them to provide us some food and water but the police officials present there did not do any such thing,” one of them said.
Police, the four alleged, kept their wigs and inner garments at the West Police Station. From the night of January 8 to noon of January 9, the four went without food.
They alleged that police officials also forced them to write an undertaking saying, “We will never wear crossdress or do make-up and if we are found in this attire anywhere in the city, we might be arrested”.
The four have denied allegations of extortion and called for legal action against the cops.
On Tuesday evening they filed a complaint with police against a journalist, a few police officials and against four local news channels.
What police are saying
In a statement, police said West Agartala Police Station in-charge, Inspector Debashish Saha and Sub-Inspector Sreekanta Guha, received information that four persons wearing “girls costumes” were roaming at Battala and Melarmath area and were asking for money from youths.
“On this information, the officers along with women staff enquired the matter at Battala and Melarmath area and found four persons wearing girls costumes. On enquiry, they could not give any satisfactory reply. Accordingly, they were brought to West Agartala PS after causing arrest under section 151 Cr.P.C observing all legal formalities,” the police statement said.
Advocate Nilanjana Roy, who is assisting the four, said that this was a gross violation of human rights and that cross dressing cannot be considered a crime under any law.
Police also claimed that the four arrested “confessed that they were male”. They were released on bail on the next day. Police further claimed that the four were offered but denied food.
Police also said that the complaint against the undertaking they were allegedly forced to sign was “baseless”.
However, no official of the West Agartala Police Station was available for comments on the incident or on steps taken since it happened.
A senior police official of Tripura Police told The Wire, “I have asked West District Superintendent of Police to furnish a detail report on the incident before me to ascertain the details. If anyone is responsible, no one should be spared,” the police official had said, requesting anonymity.
Rights and livelihood
When the incident occurred, a few local journalists repeatedly asked the four inside the police station as to whether they were boys or girls and why they dressed up as women. Videos of them were recorded and circulated as well.
The four said that the impact of the videos going viral was huge, with many transgender people being forced out of their rented homes and others being taunted. Their social lives and livelihood were likely to be hampered too.
“We were scared. They made us take off our clothes in front of male police personnel. We requested them so many times but they still captured our pictures and videos. We feel safe when police are around us, but that day we felt that police and those reporters were similar to rapists,” said one of them.
Several LGBTQIA+ rights activists have spoken against the issue.
“Awareness is what we lack in our society and without right kind of education this will not change. LGBTQIA+ members have always fall prey to such atrocities because of ignorance,” activist Sneha Gupta Roy said.
She said what happened to the four has caused mental and emotional harm to the whole community.
Chao Subhojit Datta, a prominent activist said that it has long since been time to accept non-binary identities and protect the sexual minority of the society from bullying or harassment.