Why 377 Must Go: Delhi Cops Beat Me Up for Hugging a Trans Friend
It began like just another evening. I got out of work late, and at around 10-10:30 pm, headed out to a popular pub in Delhi’s Aurobindo market with three of my friends.
I was at the same pub earlier that week, and it is largely a safe space. As an openly queer man, safe and unsafe is something I am more than mindful of. Even though I try not to, a lot of times I end up rethinking my outfit based on where I am headed. That day none of these concerns were on top of mind.
After a few drinks and some socialising, we got pretty bored of the place and my friends and I decided to head back home.
Amid all of this chaos, as we were looking for a cab, I ran into a friend – a trans woman – who I’ve previously met at clubs. In our drunken revelry, we both hugged each other tightly with beaming smiles.
But I don’t feel her embrace, instead I feel lashes of hard wooden cane on my back and my calves.
I began to scream, more out of shock and horror. As I moved away from my friend, I saw two policemen charging at me. One of them stops at my heels and proceeds to slap me across my face multiple times. All the while saying, “Yahan dhanda karega? batata ho tujhe abhi. (You’ll solicit prostitutes here? Let me teach you a lesson.)”
Another cop grabbed me by my collar and pushed me away, almost throwing me on the road. All of this was too much to register. I still couldn’t understand why I was being beaten up. All this while, I see people moving away from the scene, trying not to look. A friend who had accompanied me that day, a girl from Coimbatore who doesn’t know Hindi, was trying to reason with the cops in English. They were laughing at her, mumbling “why is the ‘Nigerian’ so concerned?”
My trans friend came up to me and asked me to move away, “Sh*t happens, don’t mess with these cops.” But I was too outraged to follow what is “common knowledge” on the streets of India’s capital.
I was shouting, demanding answers. The cops were just pushing me and my friend away, but we refused to budge.
The Horror That Did Not End Quickly
Looking at our ceaseless agitation, another cop came up to me, this time calmly. He asked me what was wrong, and why I was angry. I told him to ask his colleagues. To which he said, “Aap yahan randi bolayoge toh woh kya bolenge? (If you call a prostitute here, what will they have to say?)”
I tried telling the cop that there’s no sex work happening here, and that I was just hugging a friend. His shrugged it off and said I should just walk away. “Thoda police wale ne marr diya toh kya hua? (What’s the big deal in getting beaten up by a cop?)”
At this point I realised no one is going to help me out here, and so I clicked a photo of the cop who initially slapped me, and of the jeep in which they were all sitting. This outraged the cops more than anything else.
“Saale chakke! Complaint karega? (Are you gonna complain, f*ggot?)” Looking at their reaction, I passed my phone to another male friend I was with. In no time, the cops overpowered the both of us and pushed us inside their jeep. While driving to the police station, they began to discuss what had just happened.
“These people, they’re spreading filth everywhere,” said one. “And why was that **** Nigerian hooker so worked up?” quipped another. “Arre, all these dirty people are all connected, and they care about each other too much.” And all of them chuckled.
We were kept at the police station for over two hours, at first together and then separately. During this time, they asked for our IDs and asked us to call our parents. On more than one occasion, the cops walked into the room we were sitting and decided to lord over us with moral gyaan — how we shouldn’t be out late at night, how we should stay away from dirty things and dirty people, how we should respect cops and it’s okay to get a beating for no fault of your own.
By the time my friend’s father arrived, the cops had also made sure we listened in on all the false charges they can implicate us for — prostitution, drugs, nuisance.
They repeated the same to his father, who pleaded with them and asked them to let us go. The cops said we could only go if we delete the photos and sign an undertaking saying we will take no further action.
Under immense duress and emotional pressure, I had to sign the papers. But I could not hold back my tears and broke down, for the first time that night, in front of an inspector. I am sure that gave him immense joy, because he said, “I haven’t reached this position in the police because of nothing, and now that I am here, no one can touch me. It is better if you understand that.”
Anurag Dubey, My Report
(The author is a Delhi-based stylist. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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