HYDERABAD: The recent protests by the Hijra and Transgender community in Hyderabad to arrest a habitual offender named Venkat has thrown light on the extortion networks operating in the city. The transgender activists have been demanding that the hard-line criminal who has over 5 FIRs against him with charges of extortion and murder attempt from the community alone and is out on bail since July 28 be arrested again as he has extorted close to Rs 15 lakh from various transgender communes and unleashed violence since his release.
Activist and founder of Telangana Hijra Trans Samiti, Chandramukhi Muvvala explains that most Hijras are forced to depend on sex work and begging due to the stigma and lack of opportunities and are forced to give ‘haftas’ to the basthi gangsters on pretext of being ‘allowed to stay there’. “Nobody gives us a place to stay, so when we stay in basthis, the local gunda or leader will demand his hafta for allowing us to stay there,” says Chandramukhi.
Smaller gangs routinely exploit the community’s fear of approaching police. “There is a Sai Pehalwan operating in Erragada, Kalyan in SR Nagar, Bunty Yadav in Musheerabad, these gangs routinely heckle for money, knowing that we would be afraid to go to the police,” adds Chandramukhi. As most transgenders live in a matriarchal commune set up of 15-20 members, their daily earnings go upto Rs 20,000, making them lucrative targets.
The kingpin, they allege, is Venkat who has used his goons to physically assault them. The modus operandi of Venkat is luring youngsters using alcohol and money and making them goons, says 36-year-old Aarthi, a victim who was attacked with a beer bottle on her left arm. In 2015, a Hijra named Pravallika was allegedly lynched by his men. “If we go to the police, they say we encouraged them by giving money and question us about sex work,” she adds.
Meanwhile the Banjara hills police have arrested four men of Venkat’s gang after a complaint was filed on September 28. However, Venkat remains at large. “There are no organised groups. Even the case of Venkat could only be taken up once they complained. They must approach police when troubled,” said ACP K Srinivas of Banjara Hills police.