The Congress in Kerala has launched its wing for the transgender community in a step aimed at broadening its political spectrum ahead of the local body elections due this year.
The Kerala Pradesh Transgenders' Congress (KPTC) – the party's first cell for the sexual minority – was launched at a function at the party's state headquarters Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday in the presence of senior leaders Mullappally Ramachandran, Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.
Arunima Sulfikar, a first-year BA student at the University College, Thiruvananthapuram, is the president of the new outfit. Faisal Faisu and Devootty Shaji are the vice-presidents, Raga Ranjini is the secretary, while Benoy and Deepa Rani are the joint secretaries.
A native of Kanjikuzhy in Alappuzha district, Arunima joined the Congress outfit after deserting the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Many of her friends from the transgender community had left the Marxist party recently, alleging ill-treatment and neglect from its rank and file.
Arunima said she left CPM because of the transphobia of the party's local leaders and workers.
“I was born and brought up in a family of Communist party supporters. I became a member of the party when I turned 18. The CPM makes tall claims about supporting our community, but my experiences from the party were quite the opposite. I faced transphobic behaviour from local leaders and activists on several occasions,” Arunima told Onmanorama.
She recounted the incident that forced her to quit CPM. “A few months ago, my transgender friend from Kollam came to my house. Some local people harassed us when we were fishing in a neighbouring pond. We questioned them, but they threw stones at my house and assaulted my friend who was undergoing hormone therapy following her sex reassignment surgery. We complained to the police, the chief minister and several commissions, but no action has been taken yet,” she said.
Arunima was a leader of Students' Federation of India (SFI), the students' wing of the CPM, at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram. Last year, she had hogged the limelight when she was elected the University Union Councillor as an SFI candidate.
Despite being an elected representative, she faced humiliation from her college-mates. “I did not go to college for nearly two months because of humiliation from others,” she said.
The organisation's general secretary Nakshatra V Kurup also deserted CPM for similar reasons.
She said she quit the party after facing a snub from the State Health and Social Justice Minister KK Shailaja when she went to meet her to discuss some issues concerning the community.
The outfit's treasurer Niya Kukku said CPM included transgender people in its fora just for namesake.
KPTC leaders said the idea of the transgender cell was mooted during their discussions with Congress leaders.
Asked about the plans of the organisation, Arunima said they would help members of the community to come out of poverty. “Setting up a transgender judicial commission and a welfare fund for the community members are among our priorities. We are also demanding job reservation for transgender,” she said.
The KPTC has formed a 50-member state committee, informed KPCC general secretary K P Anilkumar. “At present, the organisation has nearly 500 members across the state,” he said.
He said the first step for the upliftment of transgender community was taken by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi when he appointed Apsara Reddy as the general secretary of the All India Mahila Congress in January 2019. “Now in Kerala, we have formed an outfit for the community to ensure that they become part of mainstream politics and society,” Anilkumar said.
He said several members of the transgender community left the CPM as they were fed up with the party's double standards.