Guwahati: Popular trans activist and Assam’s first transgender judge Swati Bidhan Baruah finds herself in controversy amid a row of accusations.
A group of transgender women have accused Baruah of money laundering, conspiracy, and false allegations against them. The group said Baruah and her associate Julie are alleged to have demanded 50 per cent of the transgender women’s daily income from ‘Badhai’ and ‘Begging’.
On July 9, 2021, a meeting was held in Tritiya Nivas, a shelter home for transgenders under Assam Transgender Welfare Board. Transgender women from Maligaon, Gandhi Basti, Kahilipara and Jalukbari attended the meeting. The transgender community from Guwahati alleged that Julie invited some Bangladeshi transgender women to stay in the shelter home without discussing it with the community in Guwahati first.
Following the meeting, a clash broke out between the transgenders in Guwahati and the alleged Bangladeshi transgenders. Five people were injured in the clash. On Monday, six transgenders were arrested from Guwahati’s Gandhi Basti area on accusations surrounding castrating children.
“Bidhan threatens us that she will not let us live in Guwahati and get us arrested. She scares us with her threats and wants us to remain inside the walls she has built for us,” said Nitumoni, one of the transgenders from the Maligaon area.
She further said, “On July 9, transgender women from Guwahati under Assam Transgender Welfare Board went to Tritiya Nivas. We saw that Julie and around 500 Bangladeshi transgender women were already present there. We do not know who allowed those transgenders to stay in Tritiya Nivas amid COVID-19. But the meeting was not with regard to the Welfare Board, rather it was for us to interact with those Bangladeshi transgenders. We have no issue with Kinnars from other states of India staying in Assam but these were Bangladeshis. An argument broke out between us and them. They thrashed us badly. Some escaped while others could not.”
“Julie and Swati Bidhan wanted to dominate Assam’s transgender community. They demanded 50 per cent of our earnings. The meeting at Tritiya Nivas was called upon to inform us about this 50-50 per cent. The six transgenders have been arrested because they rebelled against this demand. They have been falsely accused of castrating and are being punished for not agreeing with Julie and Baruah,” added Nitumoni and other transgender women from Maligaon.
Baruah, however, has dismissed all allegations and claimed the case to be a sex-change racket by the transgender community. “They used to target the local and poor boys. Basically, some of them were from the South Salmara district and other districts of Assam. We found that it is a big racket and the main culprits, the masterminds, used to take these people to Delhi to get them castrated. After the castration, they used to include them in forced labour, bonded labour and prostitution. In that regard, the victim has filed a complaint,” she said, regarding the case.
Speaking on the clash that took place in Tritiya Nivas, she said, “There were around 40-50 transgender persons after Ambavasi who came here to visit Kamakhya Temple. After they arrived here they found that the temple was closed. So they contacted us as Tritiya Nivas is a government shelter home if they could stay for a few hours until they board Kanchanjunga Express at 10.30 pm the very same night. Upon seeing their details and vaccination reports, we allowed them to rest for a few hours. We arranged their food and lodging. They left by 6 pm in the evening. This was just an act of hospitality. If the transgender women are targetting this as an issue of the quarrel between the community, then it is their issue and we have got nothing to do with that.”
Referring to the allegations of letting Bangladeshi transgender women stay in Tritiya Nivas, she said, “We do not have a single Bangladeshi Muslim in Tritiya Nivas. The trans here (referring to Guwahati) are Rohingyas whose data is available with us and we have forwarded it to the Foreigner’s Court to take immediate necessary action accordingly. They are grabbing the opportunity of domicile transgenders which we cannot let go easily.”