We are appalled by, and strongly condemn the attack on four transwomen in Thane, by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena goons on May 27, 2018. Not only were the transwomen attacked by a mob of around 15 self-appointed saviours of culture; the whole event was videographed and shared on various media platforms as a thing to be upheld and applauded. This is a shameless act of brutal vigilantism against members of a marginalized section of society.

What’s even more shocking than the act itself, is the response of MNS leaders to this horrific incident, trying to justify the act under the aegis of ‘rooting out social evil’ by restoring law and order, which the police have allegedly failed to do. In the various statements and bytes given to the media by members of MNS, they continue to refer to trans persons as individuals who are ‘polluting the culture of Thane’, ‘people who harass residents’, ‘dirt that needs to be cleansed off their vicinity’ and ‘dens of prostitution;’ all of which colour transwomen as individuals worthy of being dealt with violence.

Trans* persons already have to deal with a lot of stigma and hatred owing to harmful stereotypes against them, and such an act of mob violence will only lead to further solidification of a culture of hate crimes against trans* persons.The narrative of trying to stop so-called public indecency and prostitution which is repeatedly used as a justification for violent correction, is unacceptable. Self-appointed vigilantes should not be protected for perpetuating violence under any pretext whatsoever.

At a time, when there are nationwide efforts for setting up transgender welfare boards, and implementing legislative reforms to give a dignified identity to trans* people, such a show of regressive mindsets towards trans* persons and sex workers, does not befit the image of a progressive Maharashtra. The state has to take responsibility of the safety of all its residents, especially those surviving through precarious occupations like sex work.

We demand swift and strict action against the perpetrators of this heinous act. Media reports indicate that a case has been registered against some members of MNS. We strongly urge that the case be followed up on high-priority, so that timely justice is served. We also want there to be more stringent laws against violence on trans* persons, since the lack of strict laws and appropriate penalties act as encouragement for such self-styled vigilantes.

LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective is a 22-year old, Mumbai-based, autonomous collective that works with Lesbian, Bisexual Women and Trans* Persons. We are a voluntary collective and our members are self-identified lesbians, bisexual women, trans persons, and queer persons who are social workers, teachers, researchers, film makers, mental health professionals, writers, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and in many other varied professions. We come from different class, religion, and caste backgrounds, and are connected by our politics of working against targeted social injustice, structural violence, and repression by fundamentalists of all hues.