TChhattisgarh State Chief Police Officer Durgesh Awasthi has nothing but praise for his new recruits. He suspects, he says, that some of them will turn out to be “the best policemen” the force has ever recruited.
“They are sensitive, they have a high emotional quotient and they know not only how the other half lives, but what it is like to be on the other side of the law,” Awasthi said.
This month, Chhattisgarh became the first Indian state to welcome a cohort of transgender people to its police training school after 13 qualified for the course.
Awasthi had been working with Vidya rajputA 43-year-old community leader in the state capital Raipur to help the force with trans awareness when the Rajput decided to push for further progress, recalling his own childhood impression of police officers.
“For me they were divine figures, the people that everyone went to if they had a problem. They were reassuring figures, respected by the public. I was wondering why we couldn’t join them and show that we could also be useful citizens, ”he said.
Too old to qualify herself, the Rajput mobilized the trans community in Raipur and 27 accepted the challenge.
For the written exam, they studied “like hell” until 2 am for months. Preparing for the physical fitness test was even more difficult. “Very few of us had an interest in sports. We are simply not interested. The applicants had no sportswear or shoes, ”Rajput said.
The state government stepped in to provide clothing, but the first weeks at boot camp, where they, along with more than 100 other applicants, were physically tested, were not easy.
“Our bodies did not know what had hit them. We had never done physical exercise. Our joints were swollen and bruised and we had injuries from falling. It was very difficult, but Mrs Rajput did not allow us to give up, ”said new recruit Tanushree Sahu, 25.
The trans recruits had to undergo their training while coping with the stresses of their daily lives: uncertain income, beatings by parents, evictions of owners and harassment. “I was proud of them. You have to realize that their lives have been nothing but negativity, isolation and loneliness and all of a sudden they have to muster the emotional reserves to get ahead and they did,” Rajput said.
When the results were announced and 13 of the 27 trans applicants found out that they were going to the police training academy, there was a sense of euphoria. “I was surprised, but I was delighted that they succeeded,” Awasthi said.
Since the Indian Supreme Court ruling in 2014, which struck down colonial-era laws used to criminalize LGBTQ + people and recognized trans people, or “hijras “As a “third gender enjoying the same constitutional rights and freedoms as other citizens,” many have felt more positive about their place in society.
But progress has been slow, and trans people still face stigma and harassment. even from the police.
Many are still forced to survive on the leftovers they get from begging or dancing at weddings, but some have managed to find conventional work.
A recent high profile example is Dr. Aqsa Shaikh, a community medicine specialist, who leads the Covid vaccination campaign at the Hamdard Institute for Research and Medical Sciences in Delhi.
While there are some success stories across India, some states are more progressive than others on trans-related policies, and Chhattisgarh has emerged as a leader.
The city of Raigarh elected India’s first trans mayor, Madhu Bai Kinnar, in 2015. Another trans woman, Veena Sendre, was chosen as Miss Chhattisgarh 2018. A hospital in Raipur has dedicated time for trans patients, so that they can visit them without fear of hostility.
Trans people becoming police officers, from social outcasts to mainstays of society, is a journey that new recruit Sahu has enchanted. Like someone who never used to leave home without covering her head with a scarf, she feels like her life has come full circle.
“I can’t believe I’m going to throw my scarf for a police uniform,” he said. “It’s something I can’t understand.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism