Bidu, a postgraduate student at Jadavpur University was recently attacked by an RSS mob for putting up a post against the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. The following interview is his account of the harrowing events. The interview has been taken by Ahana Ganguly.
Ahana Ganguly: Bidu, your facebook post recounts the recent attack you have faced a few days back. Can you tell us about what actually happened?
Bidu: We all know about the Bhoomi Pujan of 5 August. Like many other progressive, secular individuals and collectives, I expressed my anguish on the social media wall. I condemned the valorization of Ram Mandir in the context of a pandemic-ridden country. Well, I could never imagine things would turn out this way. That evening I went to a relative’s place. It is an adjacent neighbourhood to where I and my mother live. My relatives have their own shop there as well. Nearly five to six BJP activists, who are my neighbours too, came to that shop first and initially threatened my uncle. They alleged one of my posts has hurt Hindu sentiment and how this will have dire consequences. My uncle and other family members were quick to apologize and tried to counter this accusation and continued to plead with them in order to save my life. The mob kept increasing in number, hurling obscene comments. They forced my family members, including my mother, to get me out from inside the dwelling so that they could let loose an attack on my person. That horrible howling outside actually reminded me of the nation-wide phenomena of Mob Lynchings. So, I had to come out. I was shattered to see that almost two hundred people had been mobilized. No sooner had I reached the gate, the mob pounced on me with the intention of killing me. My mother and my aunt somehow managed to save me for which they got beaten up by those men. Meanwhile, some of the next door neighbours called the cops who arrived and rescued me. I had another experience which I could not write about in the social media but want to share with you. While I was being escorted by the cops toward the van, some people managed to reach me and began to physically assault me by kicking, punching etc. These people were so aggressive that neither my family nor the police could stop them by any means. However, the cops became quite cooperative after this incident got media coverage and a few people from prominent quarters condemned this atrocity. Yet, I must tell you that initially the behaviour of the police personnel was terrible. While rescuing me, they hit on my arms within the van as a gesture of disciplining me for writing in social media on these issues. Moreover, they were persistently interrogating me about my gender identity, whether I am a girl or a boy without considering the mental trauma I was going through right then. I felt so anxious about what I am and how I was not being accepted as a person in the “normal” course. I was asked to delete all the posts in the police station by the officer in charge and my phone was seized. This behaviour continued until I was finally permitted to return home in the middle of the night, though my phone was yet to get released from the police custody. It was literally a nightmare. I and Ma could not have our dinner that night. It was an unforgettable trauma.
Ahana Ganguly: How do you relate your socio-political location as a Trans Man from Jadavpur University with the atrocities unleashed upon you and your family? It is well known and has been reported widely that your campus has been facing vicious attacks by RSS over a prolonged period.
Bidu: I am already excluded from the mainstream social understanding of gender and I experience this in my day to day life. Since this was the BJP, it was even worse. My University, Jadavpur, is the only place where I am outspoken and assertive about my gender location (apart from the support I receive from my Ma). It is not the same in case of my hometown or other social associations where I engage. In fact, this is the reason why I could not yet officially/legally declare myself as a Trans-man. I felt this painful contradiction between my biological and sexual identity sharply on the day of assault. The prejudice and hatred from the BJP goons and the state machinery overlapped for this reason also. And yes, belonging to Jadavpur was an added factor. I am still severely attacked and verbally/textually harassed by the BJP IT cell with their well-used terms like “Jadavgachhi r maal” (IT cell popularly uses this invective-an analogy between a redlight area called Sonagachhi in Kolkata and Jadavpur University). Just because I am from Jadavpur, the BJP goons instantly started calling me an “Anti-National from Jadavpur”, “Muslim Appeaser” etc. So, it was clear that both my identities as a student from Jadavpur and a person from the transgender/ queer sphere made the RSS-BJP sponsored attack even more vitriolic.
Ahana Ganguly: The wall of your facebook clearly indicates the determination with which you stand by your political standpoint. You are being continuously attacked by the BJP IT cell. How do you as a student from the Queer community, envisage your life in a Hindu Rashtra?
Bidu: I will continue to emphasize my political standpoint unambiguously: it is absolutely crucial to oppose the BJP. For anyone living under a Hindu Rashtra, let alone the Queer community, any difference over gender identity or sexual orientation apart from what RSS prescribes, is brutally precarious. Look at their portrayal of women. I personally feel harshly excluded and violently persecuted as a Trans-Man within the framework of a Hindu Rashtra.
Ahana Ganguly: North Bengal, your home region, has become a laboratory of RSS-BJP for undertaking obnoxious communal experiments. You also belong to a refugee family that migrated to Alipurduar during one of the phases of Partition from East Bengal which became East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. Islamophobia and Partition memory are very complex over there. As a left political activist what do you feel about ways of dealing with Hindu communalism in your surroundings?
Bidu: Yes, I have had a number of counter interactions with my family, specifically with my maternal uncle. During the NRC-CAA Movement, I have felt that Islamophobia is very much ingrained within my family itself. I have always tried to explain to them the designs of Hindu Rashtra and that BJP is not going to be harmless towards Hindus. Assam is a burning instance in this regard. They were in denial all through; but with this new development that we have faced and the way all the forgery and corruption committed by the BJP have been unmasked, I think my family is slowly getting an idea. I will continue my engagements with different people around me after this experience. They should know if this could happen to me despite belonging to a Hindu refugee family myself, what is in store for them if they oppose these gangsters.
Ahana Ganguly: Diversity and Dissent: the two plinths of liberal democracy are under severe attack these days. What is your expectation from the left political quarters to fight the Hindu fundamentalist offensive?
Bidu: We need to work at the grass roots level from the Left. I have personally bumped into a number of fellows who claim to be left but are still carrying the grimy ideas of Islamophobia and Homophobia. I know it will take time to cut across the established rhetoric and construct an alternative; but our primary focus should be to point these out to the budding comrades who are coming into contact with left ideology. We should stay alert and politicise comrades on the social questions so that the wider population can be reached and made alert to who gains from prejudice against minorities.