Remembering Bashir: My Domestic Help Who Was Also a Transgender
I miss you, Bashir.
Now that Supreme Court has partially struck down Section 377 decriminalising homosexuality, the larger question remains – will the LGBT community face no further problems? The answer is simply NO.
When the Supreme Court pronounced its judgment on Section 377, I was taken back to my childhood days when Bashir was our domestic help. He, incidentally, was a transgender person.
Bashir hailed from a remote village of Karnah, Jammu and Kashmir. Born to a poor family, he was the youngest among his four siblings. Bashir hadn’t had any formal schooling and had studied the Quran from a local imam of his village. However, being transgender, he was constantly bullied and harassed by other children. The unending bullying made him drop out from a local dargah (a religious seminary). Bashir’s agony of bullying and harassment didn’t stop there. He was also beaten by his family for his identity.
One day, Bashir left his home, his village, and reached Srinagar. Here, he spent a few nights at the famous Makhdoom Sahib Shrine, named after Makhdoom Sahab, a Muslim saint, who lies buried at the shrine.
After a few days, Bashir moved to Ganderbal, nearby district of Srinagar. It was outside a hospital where he approached my father and asked for alms. Instead of giving him any alms, my father brought him home and asked him about his whereabouts. After listening to him with moist eyes, my father decided to shelter him.
Soon, Bashir was my friend who became my guardian. Bashir was a 20-year-old when he started working at our home as a domestic help.
I was in class V, and my sister was barely three years old. It was Bashir’s duty to drop me to school and take care of my sister while my parents were at work.
Despite being the youngest in his family, Bashir was compassionate and took care of my sister just like our mother did.
Bashir changed his postal address, but if there is one thing that didn’t change was societal acceptance. I vividly remember how he would be booed, jeered at, while dropping me at school. I would often wonder why people called him names, why Bashir never visited a mosque. Bashir was a practising Muslim and would keep fasts as well. Finally, one day, I asked Bashir to accompany me to a mosque and he blatantly refused. But with my repeated requests, Bashir gave in and came with me. At the main entrance of the mosque, an elderly man screamed at Bashir, “O lancza masheed karkha mekir?” (Hey eunuch, will you turn the mosque dirty?)
Bashir left the place immediately. I ran after Bashir to hug him.
When I hugged Bashir in our courtyard, he broke down. I felt guilty for having him taken him to the mosque.
Despite all this, Bashir never spoke badly about anyone, nor did he complain about anything.
I took it upon myself to fight Bashir’s battle. I would often pick quarrels with people who called him names, mocked and abused him. But the kind of person Bashir was, he would often stop me and apologise to the people who were the cause of his misery.
Soon, I lost Bashir.
A neighbour of mine went beyond the usual verbal harassment. He abducted Bashir from our home when he was alone. We never saw him again.
It was after a few days that we came to know through a friend of an accused molester what actually happened. Even a neighbour of ours had seen Bashir at a far-off meadow, where he had narrated to him the horrific incident. The accused had shoved a piece of cloth into his mouth and tied his hands behind his back. A helpless Bashir was then stripped naked and repeatedly sexually assaulted. When my parents returned home, Bashir had already left without telling anyone about his ordeal. My parents thought of filing a police complaint, but were repeatedly threatened by the accused molester. To my knowledge, Bashir’s molester was a known militant commander, who later joined the anti-insurgency group, Ikhwan. Just a few months after the crime, he was killed in a counter insurgency operation.
Although the Supreme Court verdict is a historic win and rekindles hope for the queer community, their ordeal doesn’t end with this verdict. Society has failed to accept them and continues to abuse them at every level.
There is a fair bit of confusion over whether or not the Supreme Court's ruling regarding Section 377 is applicable to Jammu & Kashmir. Since J&K has separate laws, including a separate Ranbir Penal Code (which closely mirrors the IPC), advocates like Anand Grover believe the judgment will not apply to J&K. Local lawyers like Umar Rashid, however, believe the apex court's ruling should apply to the state, and there have been decisions of the J&K High Court that could allow this to happen.
I am sorry Bashir, we failed you as a society.
We were too brutal to you. This society continues to remain such and I hope someday it accepts you and your community for who you are . I hope one day no Bashir will have to struggle for his identity and no one has to go through the things you went through.
I wish I could see you again and tell you how I have missed you. Please come back!
(Owais Talib is a student and is currently preparing for Civil Services. You can and tweet to him at @TALIBOWAIS)
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