Assam transgenders seek inclusion in NRC, to knock on Supreme Court’s door

Assam transgenders seek inclusion in NRC; to knock on Supreme Court’s door

Avishek Sengupta | February 16, 2018 20:25 hrs

The times, they are a changing:

  • Acting to a PIL filed in the High Court, the Assam Government has constituted a core committee and an advisory committee to look into the issues and problems of the transgender community
  • Dispur is mulling on constituting a Transgender Welfare Board by this year which will create education and employment opportunities for the community
  • Academy awardee British actor , Eddie Redmayne, who had been vocal about the rights of the transgender community is to take part in a pride parade organised by the All Assam Transgender Association in Guwahati this month

Protesting against the exclusion of their names from the register, the All Assam Transgender Association has decided to move the Supreme Court against the Registrar General of India supervising the exercise.   

A 113 page petition which has already been prepared for submission to the apex court makes a case for the screening of the transgender population in the state and their inclusion in NRC.  

“The Supreme Court has ordered the update of the NRC and we would like to know from the Court whether the transgender, who are compelled by society to lead a substandard life, would be termed as Bangladeshi migrants or a domicile of the state,” said Swati Bidhan Baruah, who heads the association with a membership of over 5,400 in the state. 

She said, “Producing legacy data is difficult for many of us (transgenders) because, in most of the cases, when a family finds out that the child is a third gender, either they shun us or they send us to the hijra guru (families of transgender). Most of us don’t have enough documents with ourselves. Those who have, due to the fear of insult and embarrassment, have not kept any contact with their real family members and so, approaching them for legacy data is out of question.”

However, Baruah admits that the arrival of transgenders from other parts of the country to Assam for livelihood pose a threat to the indigenous transgender population.  “This is the reason why some security for us is necessary including our enrolment in the NRC.” 

“According to the 2011 census report, there are at least 11,000 transgender people in the state which might have increased to more than 20,000 now. Many of the new entrants are either too scared to come out fearing embarrassment or have come from other parts of the city. So, a screening by the government is required to differentiate the original inhabitants from the shifting crowd,” said Baruah.

The association had, last month, moved the State Coordinator of NRC with their demand and had been assured of a solution by the second week of January.   

“However, no solution has so far been reached,” Baruah said.

Out of a total of 3.29 crore applicants, the NRC has been able to cover only 1.9 crores in a list already that has already been released. The entire exercise which found mention in the Assam Accord is now being monitored by the Supreme Court.

 Identity tug-of-war between transgender and sexual minorities

Transgenders in Assam do not want to be clubbed with sexual minorities like the gay, lesbian and bisexual.   

They are opposed to being included in the acronym ‘LGBT’ which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. 

Terming the plight of the sexual minorities as being “deprived of rights by choice,” the transgenders in the state are of the firm opinion that they are “gender minorities” and hence, their struggle is by “compulsion.”

“Our sexual orientation and the fight for our rights are not based on what we chose. We were born like this and denied of our rights by birth. The sexual minorities however, have a choice. With all due respect to their sexual orientation, we would like to put our cause before theirs,” Munni Begum (name changed) who hails from Karimganj said. She collects money from Bhangagarh bus stand here.

Another transgender, Rakhi Das said, “The LGB are more fortunate than us. While their fight is against just one section of the Indian Panel Code, we have to fight for our very existence. Due to our gender, we do not get the respect in society, any formal education or the opportunity to study. They (sexual minorities) at least have got those rights.”

Das was referring to Section 377 that criminalises consensual sexual intercourse between two adults of the same sex.

The rift between the sexual and gender minorities in the state was caused because of a section of NGOs who are piggybacking on the transgender fight to get foreign funding, members of the All Assam Transgender Association have alleged. 

Swati Bidhan Baruah, without naming any organisation in particular said, “Several NGOs, in the name of promoting the LGBT community and fighting against the section 377, are actually swindling lakhs and crores of rupees. This is not serving our cause but theirs.”

Baruah claimed to have all the necessary documents against the NGOs and threatened to approach the Enforcement Directorate to expose the racket.

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