Transgender persons banned from textile markets in Surat

After the incident, textile traders, who are also allegedly harassed by transgender people for money during festival time, decided to ban their entry into the markets. (Representational image)

Following the alleged murder of a resident of Godadara in the city by three transgenders, textile market associations have decided to ban the entry of members of the community into the textile market areas.

On September 8, paan stall owner Gehrilal Khatik (40), a resident of Godadara and native of Rajasthan, died in hospital five days after three transgender persons allegedly assaulted him when he could not meet their demand for money on the occasion of his son s birth. Limbayat police then arrested the three accused Renuka Kunvar (21), Bhagyashri Kunvar (23) and Sagri Kunvar (25), all residents of Godadara. All three accused are in judicial custody at Surat Central Jail.

After the incident, textile traders, who are also allegedly harassed by transgender people for money during festival time, decided to ban their entry into the markets. Sources in the Textile market say that transgender persons visit the markets before Holi and Diwali and collect Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 from each shop. There are 165 textile markets in Surat, with over 60,000 textile shops.

The ban was mooted by Lalit Sharma, President of the Japan Textile Market, which has over 600 textile trading shops in Surat. Sharma is also the president of the Surat Textile Youth Brigade, which was active during the protests against the Goods and Service Tax, when it came into effect.

We have banned the entry of transgender persons into the textile markets, as we have come across complaints of (them) misbehaving with shopkeepers who give them less money during Holi and Diwali festivals, Sharma said, speaking to The Indian Express. These transgender persons also use abusive language with the shop keepers. After the recent murder of Gehrilal Khatik, we spoke to the presidents of various textile markets and requested them not to allow transgender persons into the market areas, which all of them have agreed to.

Sharma said there were four main groups of transgender persons that frequented the textile market area during Diwali and Holi, led by four group leaders, namely Rani Kunvar, Dinky Kunwar, Payal Kunvar, and Bhuri Kunvar. The accused involved in the murder of Gehrilal were disciples of Rani Kuwar, he added.

With the Diwali season coming up, the transgender persons, who are otherwise not given employment and therefore demand money from shopkeepers to get by, say they face a question of survival.We have no other source of income except collecting money from shops and houses, Payal Kunvar said. If such a ban is enforced, then our livelihood will be snatched away and we will starve, she added.

On Tuesday, two groups of transgender persons led by Payal Kunvar and Bhuri Kunvar visited Japan Textile market on Ring road for a meeting with Sharma, hoping to reach a compromise. Sharma told the groups that the family of the deceased Khatik is poor and face a financial crisis. Hearing of their plight, Payal and Bhuri handed over a cheque of Rs 1.5 lakh to Sharma for the deceased Khatik s kin. With this peace offering, the transgender persons requested Sharma to lift the ban.

If one person of a community does a crime, then why should the entire community be held responsible? Payal asked, speaking to this paper. After donating Rs. 1.50 lakh to the deceased family members, we have also assured that we will take care of the Diwali celebrations of the family members of the deceased every year, and donate funds to them from our earnings, she said, adding that Sharma had agreed to talk to the presidents of other markets and arrive at a decision on the ban.

Sharma said he had told the transgender persons that until the court reaches a judgment on the murder accused, no member of the transgender community would be allowed into the markets. We will remain firm on the decision, Sharma said. But he added, They have given us a cheque of Rs 1.50 lakh, which we have deposited in the bank account of Khatik s family member. Payal and other transgender persons have requested us to allow them to enter into the markets. We have told them that we will hold meetings and later inform them (of the decision).