PUCL , 2002

Letter, Sat, 23 Mar 2002
Police intrusion into SANGAMA, Bangalore

Dear friends

We have been working with hijras, kothis, and homosexual/bisexual men from the poor and non-English speaking backgrounds for the last 2 years. Recently (1 month ago) we have started a drop-in/meeting space every Sunday from 3 p.m to 6 p.m in our office. Our office is in the Flat 13 (3rd Floor) of the 'Royal Park' Apartments. There are only two residences (out of 16 flats) in the 'Royal Park' apartments, which are situated on the first and second floors. The rest are offices, which remain closed on Sundays.

On the 17th of March 2002 (Sunday) one of the residents, Mr. Ashok Kattimani an ex-MLC sent for one of Sangama's office staff at 3:00 p.m who was present at the meeting. He stated that since there were families present in the building, we shouldn't allow hijras (most people including Mr. Kattimani and Police don't differentiate between kothis and hijras, at times they even call gay/homosexual/bisexual men 'hijras') to come there. He also alleged that hijras were having late night dance parties in our office. This is an absolute lie. Some of the other people present at the meeting on that day were Shakun of
Vimochana, Dr. Ramdas Rao of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) - Karnataka, Prof. N. Babbiah and Sridhar of People's Democratic Forum, Arvind Narrain of Alternative Law Forum, Muddappa from Development Initiatives for Social Concerns, who were part of a fact-finding report on the Police harassment faced by street-based male/kothi/hijra sex-workers.

At 5 p.m the fact-finding report team left and 3 police men in plainclothes walked into Sangama's office and demanded to know of the nature of our work. Two of them were from Shivajinagar police station and one of them from the Commercial street police station (our office comes under this police station). They spoke to some of us in the library, where they checked a few books and left after fifteen minutes with a copy of Sangama's registration document s and a list of Sangama's Governing Body members along with phone numbers of
its President Dr. Shyama Narang, its Secretary Elavarthi Manohar (who is also the program co- ordinator of Sangama) and two others, Arvind Narrain and Dr. Shekhar Seshadri (Child Psychiatrist in NIMHANS).

They also told Sangama staff that an Inspector would be visiting the office and within 15 minutes, the Sub Inspector from Commercial Street police station, came with 3 plainclothes police men. They again took the details of Sangama's
office, copies of registration documents and aims and objectives of Sangama. The other policemen did a thorough search of the office while the Inspector was speaking to two of us. The Inspector said that hijras cannot have a meeting in the residential locality, which according to him 'humiliated' the people. He advised us not to have the Sunday meetings any more in the office and to
have it in the out-skirts of the city. The Inspector also inspected a few CDs, which were software program CDs by asking Sangama staff members to run these CDs on the computer. They also insisted that the meeting be closed immediately and said that the complaint was from the local residents. The meeting continued despite this intrusion for the next 30 minutes. We closed the meeting/drop-in space for that day at 6:00 p.m.

The next day, we spoke to the owner of our flat. He was extremely supportive and continues to be so. We heard from him that Mr. Ashok Kattimani was busy rallying support from other flat owners (many of whom were not even aware of our Sunday meetings in spite of us being there since 1/1/2002). Some
of Mr. Kattimani's romours include: 200 hijras/homosexuals visit Sangama on Sundays, where they consume alcohol/drugs and have sex. He even
alleged that the 'whole building smells of drugs' (sic) on Sundays. We also heard about the comments of another flat owner, a reputed real-estate
lawyer who said that 'we can't legally do anything but if these people continue to be here, I may loose my image and loose some of my clients too.
If you don't get them out soon, the commercial value of this building will go down'.

We had meeting with some of our supporters on the 19th (Tuesday) where it was decided that we approach Police Officials and to start a dialogue
with Mr. Kattimani and other flat owners.
Representatives of PUCL, Manasa and Sangama met Mr. K. L. Sudhir (Deputy Commissioner of Police -Administration, who is a representative of the City Police Commissioner) on March 22, Friday and handed over a letter signed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties - Karnataka (PUCL-K), Vimochana, Manasa, AITUC - All India Trade Union Congress,
Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF), Centre for Workers Management (CWM), Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Development Initiatives for Social Concerns
(DISC), Pedestrian Pictures, Slum Jagattu, Sangama, Swabhava, Samvada, Nele, and Jaarbande.

We demanded for an end to this kind of Police harassment. He (the DCP) immediately spoke to the Commercial Street and Shivajinagar Police Stations
and asked them to stop this. He informed us that apparently Mr. Kattimani had gone to the Commercial Street Police Station with 15 women and complained that 'hijras are a threat to the security of women'.

We are planning to meet the Inspector General of Police (Human Rights) soon. We have decided against going to the media at this point of time. We are strengthened by the support and concern of many individuals and groups in Bangalore and elsewhere. Sangama is functioning as usual and will continue with its Sunday meetings (tomorrow). We don't expect any harassment from the Police. We will let you know of future developments.

In Solidarity

Chandru, Famila, Kumar, Lakshmi, Manohar, Nithin,
Revathi, Roshan, Sharada, Sumathi

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