New Delhi/Jalgaon- A group of trans women activists will be undertaking a 'fast until death' in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, to demand horizontal reservation and other basic rights. The fast will begin from October 30 under the banner of 'Transgender Hakka, Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti.'
Various members from the transgender community will be rallying with the cry 'Sankhya main nahin o bhaari, fir bhi lenge hissedaari' (Our numbers might not be strong, but we will still take our rightful share). The Mooknayak had a conversation with Nikita Mukhyadal, who is a social activist at the forefront of the protest.
After the central government brought in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, all the state governments had to provide a column specifically for the community during job applications in the public sector. But due to a lack of awareness, many states did not take the necessary step. "When the application form for Maharashtra Police's vacancy 2022-2023 for the post of Police Constable was issued by Pimpri Chinchwad Police Commissionerate, it did not have any option in the gender category for the trans community. I am a resident of Pune, and I had gone to fill out the form at a station there, but people present at the venue restricted me from filling my form under the 'female' category," Nikita remembered.
"After I was denied, I, along with another trans person, went to the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) of Pune District. The court supported me and held that a special column for transgenders should be provided." Nikita had approached the lower court on 29th November 2022. The verdict from MAT relied heavily on the 'National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India & Ors, (2014) 5 SCC 438,' which had mentioned the necessity of horizontal reservation. It further mentioned, "TGs are also entitled to enjoy economic, social, cultural, and political rights without discrimination because forms of discrimination on the ground of gender are violative of fundamental freedoms and human rights." But the Maharashtra government challenged the judgment at the High Court.
"Taking that position, the state showed the negativity it carried for us. Trans people want to work. If anything, this should be appreciated. The activist then went on to speak about the disappointment they felt at the High Court. "At the court, the state said transgenders are not capable of being in the police force," Nikita responds. "I just had one thing to say then. You are not even taking our examination. How can you say we are not capable? You take our physical test. Make us run. If we are not capable, we will not pass the test. Whatever test you want to hold, we will sit for it depending on our qualification."
Adding on to it, they said, "Even after that, we won at the High Court. After this, the court directed the state to make a transgender column available for us." The judgment that came out at the end of 2022 read, "While they attempted to submit their applications online, they found that there was no option for transgenders. The format had a clause for indicating whether an aspirant is a male or a female candidate. Arya [Arya Vijay Pujari, another respondent] and Nikita tried their level best to have the format changed. Having failed in such an attempt, they approached the Tribunal with their respective original applications."
The verdict further added, "By the impugned orders, the Tribunal, while acknowledging that Arya and Nikita, as transgenders, do have the right to participate in the selection process in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India & Ors., reported in (2014) 5 SCC 438, has directed the Home Department to not only allow Arya and Nikita to participate in the selection process for appointment on the post of Police Constable in the Maharashtra Police Force by creating an appropriate option to facilitate the identification of such aspirants who are transgenders, it has taken a step further to direct that in respect of recruitment to all posts in the Home Department, such an option should be created for the transgenders."
But their ordeal was not over. Frustratingly, Nikita added, "When the High Court directed the state, what they did was they made the column available to us only for five days. Many people from the community were still unable to apply because five days are not enough for people to know that such a thing has happened and then to go and submit so many documents which take time. Document submission is a time-consuming process for cisgender people too; think of how transgender people would work in such a short period." Even after the obstacle, 73 transgenders from the state had filled out the form.
The story does not end there. "When the government has provided us a separate column, they should also have thought about where to put us in the eligibility list when we pass the exams. There was a column for us to apply, but there were no seats reserved for us. They thought that since the exams were to be conducted within the next three months, we would not be able to pass. Fortunately, 60 out of the 73 transgender persons aced the examination. But someone was placed in the merit list meant for males, and some were put in the merit list meant for females. There was no separate list for the community. I was placed in the female merit list, and they put down my gender as female."
"We are demanding one percent reservation, nothing else. If states like Karnataka can do that after the Supreme Court's judgment, what is stopping Maharashtra?" Nikita asked.
This fast is the third time in a year that the community is protesting. Nikita's case is still going on as she had filed another civil case at the High Court where they have asked for horizontal reservation. But even then, the government is saying the demand is impossible as it will cross the 50% reservation cap. "We are not even demanding vertical reservation. We are asking for horizontal reservation. It obviously will not cross the 50% cap." It is interesting to note that while the reservation cap is apparently very important for the government to maintain, the very same people are encouraging reservation for the Maratha community, which will result in breaching the cap."