Chennai- A ray of hope shines in the ongoing battle for Horizontal Reservation! On January 9, the Madras High Court issued a directive, urging the Tamil Nadu government to explore the possibility of introducing a one percent horizontal reservation for transgender individuals across all caste categories in state-run educational institutions and employment opportunities.
Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy instructed TN Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram to provide information on this matter by 4th March this year.
This directive came during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by transgender activist Grace Banu, who sought horizontal reservation for the transgender community. Horizontal reservation involves allocating quotas that cut across various groups, as opposed to vertical reservation, which is specific to certain groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The Mooknayak spoke with the petitioner Grace Banu who is also a trans rights activist about the long fight that resulted in the directive and her hopes from the state.
Opening about the judgement, the activist said, “I am okay with the judgement, but the government should obey it. It is one step forward in the demand of our rights. The High Court has directed the government, and we now hope the government adhere to the directions and implement the horizontal reservation.”
Talking about the petition, Grace revealed it has been a long road. She remarked, “This petition was filed in 2018 so the fight took more than 5 years to bring about an answer. It has been a long struggle. This is how the court system and state machinery functions anyway. It is delayed justice and I believe a delay in justice is injustice. We are pushing everywhere for equality. We protested on streets, I got threatened and arrested. But I still have a hope. So, let’s see what happens.”
Grace Banu further talked about the importance of Horizontal Reservation. Each individual carry multitudes of identity with them and such a cross-cutting representative system is more beneficial. “In 2015, TN govt passed the order of clubbing trans people under the Economically Backward Class. This is unfair and against social justice as there are trans people who come from Dalit and Adivasi community too. After the judgement, Dalit trans people are still struggling to make their place in institutions and government jobs. This is where Horizontal Reservation becomes important,” explained Banu.
“Dalit and Adivasi trans people still have no respect in the society. We are the ones begging near the traffic lights and doing sex-work. We too want to live a normal and dignified life. Our peace is nowhere. We are living alone, without our family or society’s support. Even then we are showing enough strength and putting efforts into our fight. Government should ensure safe and secure environment for the community, or at least for the future generation. Rights are the only hope for the future generation.”
Tamil Nadu has always claimed to be ahead of other states in terms of liberal policies but according to the activist, she felt cheated by the government. Revealing about various aspects of the state, the activist claimed, “The land keeps saying it is a progressive state and talks about the steps it has taken for the LGBTQIA+ people, particularly the trans community but they never focus on any rights-based approach. They have put their focus on welfare schemes like skill development programs for the community members, supporting small businesses and that’s it. Educational rights and employment rights have not been their focus for so many years.”
The activist had stern words to add on in regard to the progressive façade of the Tamil Nadu government. The aggrieved activist responded, “I had high hopes from the current government but there is none anymore. I cannot explain to you the number of times I have gone to meet the government officials, the police departments, the chief secretary. Every time we approach them, they listen to us and just say they will work but they never do. Last time, 6 trans persons got a court order to let government allow them to appear for physical examination for a government post, but the very same DMK government filed an appeal against the people. So how can I agree that this party is following the social justice system. If even after the directive they do not provide us rights, their mask of progressiveness will come off”.
Even then, there is no other option for the activist than to hope. She continued, “I am hopeful that we will get horizontal reservation in the state this time because DMK has given reservations to physically disable people and students from Tamil medium schools. I have waited for 15 years so March does not seem that far away.”