TW: Systemic transphobia, police violence, Gender-based violence
On January 8, 2022, 4 professional make-up artists Mohini, Sangam, Raj, and Tapas were returning home from a DJ party they had attended in a hotel in Agartala. A journalist and a few Tripura police officials stopped them around 10:40 pm and started bullying them, making fun of their “dress code”.
Soon after they took them to the West Agartala Women’s police station where all four of them were “forced to undress by the police-women there, in the presence of a few male personnel around 11:30 in the night,” alleges 19-year-old Mohini, recounting the humiliation she and her friends faced, to the Indian Express.
Not only that, thereafter Mohini and her friends “were walked to the neighbouring West Agartala Police Station in the cold wintry night around 11:45 pm” and were purportedly “made to sit on the ground and denied eatables or water.” However, nothing scarred the individuals more than their “wigs and inner garments” being confiscated by the West Agartala Police Station.
It doesn’t stop there; all the 4 transgender persons were made to submit a “written undertaking” stating that they “would not ‘cross dress’ ever again and [will be] threatened arrest if they did so.”
Several videos of the incident were also shot by a few journalists and are being circulated on social media. While some of those have been deleted from the online platforms after the intervention of the Agartala Press Club, this incident has sent a wave of shock among the LGBTQIA+ community in Tripura.
While no one from the West Agartala Police Station has addressed the issue, a senior official of the Tripura police has informed the Indian Express that all four individuals were arrested under Section 151, which states, “Whoever knowingly joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace.”
Though it’s hard to believe what sort of disturbance 4 (which is a number decidedly lesser than 5) make-up artists returning from a party must have caused in the state of Tripura, I wonder whether stripping make-up artists inside a police station was also something that the Section 151 mandates the police to do if they find people “disturbing” peace.