Fighting for Tara: Protesters seek justice for transwoman who was burnt alive

Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel | First published: 14 November 2016, 23:17 IST
Photo: Malik/Catch News

On the morning of 9 November, a 28-year-old transwoman in Chennai, died at Kilpauk Medical College hospital after having suffered severe burn injuries under suspicious circumstances.

Tara's friends found her with 95% burn injuries in the compound of Pondy Bazaar police station. The police claim that it was a case of self-immolation but the matter is suspect. Also, they are yet to produce video evidence for this claim.

The police also claim that Tara was into sex work and was inebriated when they caught her. Neither of these claims, however, explain why she would immolate herself.

It has been five days since the incident and transgender activists, along with other members of the LGBT community, have come together to express their anger at her horrific death and the way the case has been dealt with.

In a protest in Chennai, following the incident, the police lathi-charged protesting transgender people. The group had gathered to demand action against the policemen who had held Tara. The TG community believes that the cops are responsible for her death, if not actively, then by their inaction.

In The Hindu's report, a senior police officer is quoted as saying, "We used mild force as they were adamant that they would walk to the commissioner's office. Moreover, some of them were blocking the traffic and creating a ruckus on the road."

Also read - I Am Not A Hijra: A damaging, offensive Transgender India photo campaign

The incident

According to an account pieced together by The Newsminute, the victim's friend, Angel, claims that Tara had driven to Pondy Bazaar around 4AM to get her phone recharged from a 24-hr store. The cops caught her there, accusing her of sex trade, confiscated her phone and bike keys.

Angel further alleges that Tara was physically assaulted by the police on the spot, who then dragged her to the police station. They then allegedly assaulted her again. Some videos of the altercation between the cops and Tara have been accessed by The Newsminute.

As per their account, Tara can be seen repeatedly denying the charges the police were accusing her of. "If I did anything wrong, I would have accepted it. I am not the kind of person to do this. The SI is being unjust," she says.

She also accuses the police of not having returned her phone and keys. When she speaks of her rights, a policeman can apparently be heard saying, "Human rights is not just for you, but for us too."

After this, Tara threatens to burn herself, as then the cops would have to deal with the government. She walks away, and is later found with the 95% burn injuries.