An attack had been made on Anurag Maitreyi and Kristi during the Durga Puja, on the night of 22nd-23rd October. In fact, this year, this was one of several cases of sexual assaults carried out while claiming to worship the goddess.
Anurag Maitreyi is a transgender activist. She and her friends had been accosted by some persons while travelling on the Metro, who were using obscene language and gestures. They protested, especially Maitreyi, and it appeared they had silenced the verbal assaults. But when they got off at the Jatin Das Park Metro station and were walking on Hazra Road near the Khalsa Hotel, they were set upon by the same people, who beat up Maitreyi very severely. But for the presence of her friend, Kristi, she could have been injured to the point of hospitalisation. Somehow managing to escape, Maitreyi saw a passing mobile police patrol and sought help. The patrol did apprehend the assaulters. But when Maitreyi and her friends reached the Bhawanipore Police Station they found the assaulters were being released. The Bhawanipore P.S. also refused to accept an F.I.R., claiming it was not in their jurisdiction. But in fact Section 154 of the CrPC, read in conjunction with Section 166A of the IPC after the Criminal Law Amendment act of 2013, indicates clearly that the complaint should have been recorded by the Police Station to which the assaulted persons had gone. Instead they were directed to the Tollygunge P.S., on the grounds that this was the proper P.S. for the complaint to be filed. At the Tollygunge P.S. the officer (O.C. K. K. Sharma) they met was extremely hostile, telling them that transgender people were beggars, thieves and pimps. Showering them with abusive and sexist language, he refused to take any FIR.
On 27th October, a protest demonstration was called near the Bhawanipore Police Station. This was a call given mainly through Facebook and SMS. The few newspapers that covered the protest, for example Ei Samay, reported it as though it was a protest only by transgender activists. This was in fact quite inaccurate, and deplorable, as it perpetuates the straight/queer divide we are fighting to overcome. It is to be noted that the people present included activists from the Women’s Right Network Maitree, from the network against sexual violence Das Theke Das Hajar, from Campus Resists, from the from All India Progressive Women’s Organisation, as well as from various students’ organisations. Including local people, some 300 gathered near the Police Station.
The O.C. of the Bhawanipore P.S. at this point wanted to ask a small deputation to go and talk with him. Some of us vocally protested, saying that whatever had to be said, had to be said openly. Slogans started, condemning the police passivity over the issues. So the O.C. was compelled to come out. He sermonised us that the police too were social beings, and this was the first step towards gaining awareness on transgender issues. We responded that we had come to them because they were the police and according to the law they were supposed to be discharging their duties. We had not come to the Police to give them an awareness training. We had come for justice and we demanded justice today itself. We demanded to know why the mobile patrol, which had let off the assailants instead of formally charging them, had not been booked. Slogans and confrontations went on for some time. He told us that they were using “high technology” which could not be disclosed. We wondered why the people arrested had been released without cases being filed, and why the mobile patrol was not being contacted. We were told that this was a mobile patrol from a different P.S. – evidently the technology was not high enough to contact the officers who had actually seen the assailants.
The Tollygunge P.S., unlike the Bhawanipur P.S., is under permanent Section 144, and so the Bhawanipur P.S. officers were constantly trying to pack us off to Tollygunge. Eventually, after much altercation, continued for two hours, we were told that the Assistant Commissioner of Police would come and meet us. A small delegation went in to meet him inside, while the rest of us continued our slogans outside. Cases have been filed under sections 341, 323 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code. What this means is that no case of sexual assault has been recorded.
As a result of the pressure mounted, we gained a very partial victory.
• The Assistant Commissioner of Police was forced to come and listened to us
• After a long discussion he promised the following although verbally:
• He gave his personal phone number to Maitreyi, and took hers, he assured that within 48 hours, the DC South would meet a delegation to listen to their grievances;
• Within ten days, the guilty police officers, including the OC of Tollygunge PS, the mobile patrol officers, and the officers who had refused to take the FIR at the Bhawanipore PS, would be served with show cause notices and action would be taken.
• Finally, he said the case would be seriously pursued.
By the time the delegation came out after its discussion with him, over two and a half hours of agitation had been continuing. Though I have participated in queer protest programmes earlier, for example over the 377 repeal campaign, it is a reality that the “us and them” binary continues to exist from both sides. We need to ensure greater understanding and unity, not only at moments like this, when we have to go to the police to condemn violence and sexual assault, but in other ways too.
Report & Photographs : S Marik