Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
Two transgenders from Manipur, living in a rented house in Bengaluru’s Koramangala, were gang-raped by three men on May 12. Threatened by the alleged offenders and scared of not being taken seriously, the two of them did not register a complaint immediately.
On May 15, All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association, a Manipur-based NGO working for the welfare of the LGBT community, received a call from the two survivors
‘Nupi Maanbi’ is a colloquial term for transgenders in Manipur.
The Logical Indian spoke to one of the survivors who narrated her trauma, saying, “These men held a knife to our necks and raped us. We pleaded with them to stop, but nothing made a difference. They forced us to give them our phone numbers, and later called and told us that if we dared to go to the police, they are going to kill us. This was one of the reasons why we were so hesitant to report the crime.”
“The survivors were extremely frightened when they called us on the afternoon of May 15, “Santa Khurai, the Secretary of All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association narrates. “They told us that on May 12, around 8 pm, they had both ordered food online and were waiting for the delivery. Hearing a knock at the door, one of them went to answer. Three men then barged into the room, armed with knives. They gang-raped both at knifepoint and left.”
Santa flew to Bengaluru on May 17 to help the survivors and took them to the Koramangala Police Station to register a complaint, with the assistance of an organisation called Manipur Diaspora Bangalore.
Following the FIR, the police acted swiftly and nabbed the three perpetrators.
The accused were identified as 24-year-old Rakesh- a Kannada television actor, 25-year-old cab driver Manikanta and 23-year-old vendor- Surya. All of them are residents of Koramangala. They have been booked under sections 448 (punishment for house-trespass), 376 D (gang-rape) and 506 D (criminal intimidation).
“One of the survivors is a student and the other works at a beauty parlour,” Santa says, adding “A whole team of supporters from Manipur accompanied us to the police station. The police treated us very well.”
According to Santa, the survivors are yet to recover emotionally. Both of them want to move out of the rented house and are being given financial assistance by Manipur Diaspora Bangalore.
“Being transgenders, we need a lot more support from society than we already have. The survivors did not immediately register a complaint due to various reasons. We are often victims of negligence and a negative attitude from the police,” Santa says.
“Every time an untoward incident happens with us, we are flooded with questions. What were you wearing when you were raped? Why do you behave like girls? You got what you deserve. Even today, a large section of society believes that transgenders are people with a questionable character,” she adds.
Santa’s organisation works in Manipur, and also caters to LGBT communities in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, in collaboration with a national level Chennai-based organisation ‘Saathii’, which assists with the funding.
The NGO has received complaints regarding denial of property, police negligence, and issues related to relationships, but this is the first incident of rape reported at the organisation. Santa said that a lot of similar cases go unreported due to the community’s fear of society.
“There can be two reasons why they were targeted. One, they are from the northeast. Second, they are transgenders. Discrimination against people from the northeast and against transgenders has been on for years. From facing racial slurs to being labelled as ‘easy’, we have seen it all,” Santa says.
While the accused are now behind bars, Santa and the survivors hope they get the strictest punishment possible.
“We do not want them to get away with what they did, and we hope they get nothing less than life imprisonment. These men are a threat to society. This should be a lesson for all those people who believe it is okay to abuse us,” Santa says.
India has long struggled with the problem of rape. While violence against women is reported nationally, the country’s transgender community feels that crimes against them remain hidden in the shadows.
According to Santa, the community faces victim blaming every day. Whenever a rape occurs, they are first mocked and ridiculed.
It is a double whammy for the people from the northeast, who are constant victims of derogatory remarks. Several people from the Northeastern states, who have relocated from their native towns for better employment and education opportunities, have been subjected to various degrees of racial discrimination.
While we take great pride in celebrating the flawless, pristine beauty of the northeast, it is hypocritical to remain indifferent towards the discrimination that people from this region are subjected to.
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