(Trigger Warning – Police Violence, Trans-negativity, Homo-negativity, Femme-negativity)
Kolkata: On July 20th, 2020 (Monday), Sanjit Mondal, a 23-years-old effeminate gay man, was walking back home at around 9:00 PM after meeting his friends. He was stopped by 6-7 men in civil dress near Chinar Park area, Rajarhat. They caught him, physically & verbally assaulted him, and forced him to sit on a bike. Sanjit insisted to know the reason for arrest but they refused to tell, neither did they have an arrest warrant. He resisted and raised an alarm, soon a crowd gathered but the men continued to assault him, they snatched his phone, lifted him and put him on a bike. “I was very scared because I did not know where they were taking me and why. I thought they could do anything to me, I was thinking about rape. I was terrified so I tried to stop the bike by pushing the rider’s hand. They stopped the bike and beat me again“, he recounts. “I insisted that they should call a police officer and a police vehicle. I also asked for my phone to call my family but they didn’t give it to me. They were very aggressive. I kept asking why I was being arrested but they said they will tell me at the station“, he adds.
A police vehicle arrived with 3 uniformed police personnels and once again Sanjit was beaten while being taken to the van. “In the van the police asked me why I speak like a girl and why I have long hair. They asked me if I have a boyfriend or a girlfriend“, he said. He was taken to the Narayanpur Police Station, where the police opened the private image gallery in his phone and showed his private images to other police personnels in the station. “They called me chakka, homo and other derogatory terms. They laughed at me and made obscene sexual gestures while asking me questions that were sexual in nature“, he recollects. After continuously insisting, he was allowed to call his family after which his phone was confiscated again. The police did not give a reason for arrest and informed the family that he can only be bailed out the next day in the morning. They noted his details in a diary and attempted to make him falsely confess to the crime of sexual solicitation, but Sanjit remained strong and did not agree to confess to crimes that he had not committed.
The cruelty continued throughout the night. Narrating the horror he said, “An officer who came in the night said that people like me should have their head shaved and paraded on the streets while being whipped. He hit me hard four times with a lathi on my knees and asked me to get off the chair and sit on the floor. Several police personnels came, verbally abused me and humiliated me. They asked me if I have a penis and if I have operated my breast. They told me that if they ever see me being effeminate, they will cut my body into two pieces and throw me in a pond behind the police station that has crocodiles in it.” On Tuesday, by 12 PM, his lawyer bailed him out. “The Police did not give any reason for arrest. The officer told my lawyer, “Arey yeh toh chakka hai” (he is transgender)”, Sanjit mentions.
On calling Narayanpur Police Station for a statement, the police refused to share any details. Neither West Bengal nor the Indian government have a welfare board or a helpline for cis-gender male queer persons, therefore attempts were made to seek guidance and help from the West Bengal Transgender Development Board. However, all calls went unanswered possibly because the board has discontinued its operations in 2018 after the end of a 3 year contract that the board members had with the government. Sanjit is traumatised and scared to step out of his house, “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t think I can do anything about it, but people need to know about the homophobia and transphobia that exists in the police force. I am shocked that even after 377 being decriminalised almost 2 years ago, this happened.”
In 2018, the Supreme Court of India read down Section 377 of the IPC and directed the Central and State Governments to publicise the verdict through a national and state level sensitisation campaign using various channels such as Radio, Print, Television, etc. However, neither of the governments have launched any such campaign to reduce the stigma against the LGBTQIA+ community. Targeted attacks on LGBTQIA+ persons by the police are not new – in 2018, a similar case came to light where Kolkata police assaulted a gay activist over false solicitation charges. Such attacks continue to suppress LGBTQIA+ persons from living their lives freely and fearlessly.