How the documentary Trans Kashmir individualises a community which is often kept at bay

They are called Khwaja Sara (in Persian), and they enjoyed a certain respect during the Mughal rule in Kashmir, between 1586 and 1751. The Mughals used Hijri in the places of women, because their many wives sought extramarital sex with male servants, etc. Sikh rulers and dogras were indifferent, only inviting them to sing/perform. The British ensured total ostracism through the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 to eradicate indigenous tribes and eunuchs.

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Cut to the present. A unique practice has given them some social status, but no social security. The voice of poet and historian Zarif Ahmed Zarif, in a documentary, tells us that hijra turned into manzimen or marriage makers, along with singing and dancing at weddings. They even pass on beautiful things between lovers. The length of the explanatory feature Surbhi Diwan and Q Akmal Hanan via Kashmir The documentary was the focus of the recent Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, and will be shown at India Habitat Centre, Delhi, as part of the Kriti Film Club screenings, on July 2 (Gulmohar Hall, 7 p.m.).

Trans Kashmir, Trans Kashmir Documentary, Kashsh Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Transgender Community Members, Kashmir, Hijra, Migration Community, Trans Women, Transgender Kashmir, Documentary, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, Indian Express News A still from the movie showing Reshma.

The film’s personal stories are interspersed with creative animations, Lal Dead’s notes on life, and archival footage (from the ’90s, of a city engulfed in barbed wire shootings), but the film’s focus remains on the trans community members, and the kind of social hostility and intimidation their lives have to negotiate with.

Come by day, after the night of the wedding, the older generation of transgender people dressed up as men to blend into the crowd – unlike in India or Pakistan. Shabnum distinguishes in the film between a normal Aqwi like them and Shabarak, who chooses surgery that the elderly in society consider un-Islamic. Young people, of course, disagree. Some wear public clothes, go to surgery, think about marriage. Transgender people in Kashmir do not interrogate traffic lights nor have customs like primitives to bless a newborn and get money in return. The matchmaking profession for the new generation is now dwindling. The film combines tales of resistance and struggle presented by Reshma, a tailor, folk singer and percussion artist. Babloo and Shabnum, both wedding artists and matchmakers; Matchmaker Nassar All persons between 40 and 60 years of age; So is Simran, 18, a bridal makeup artist and mehendi. Pablo is lucky enough to stay with his family. Reshma, like many, had to leave the house. She was spat on the street – and also asked to take a video of a selfie – by passersby. Her music video for 2020 Wessie’s straw He has over 4 million views on YouTube.

Trans Kashmir, Trans Kashmir Documentary, Kashsh Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Transgender Community Members, Kashmir, Hijra, Migration Community, Trans Women, Transgender Kashmir, Documentary, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, Indian Express News A still from the movie depicting the matchmaker Nissar.

“When I went to meet Babloo, someone in the neighborhood laughed and said, ‘You’re making a movie about that?’ You can’t take these people seriously,” said Hanan, 52, based in Srinagar, who makes social films for 25 years. She was a Diwan Fellow at the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, from 2007 to 2010.

Trans Kashmir, Trans Kashmir Documentary, Kashsh Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Transgender Community Members, Kashmir, Hijra, Migration Community, Trans Women, Transgender Kashmir, Documentary, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, Indian Express News And still from the movie.

“When you think of Kashmir, you don’t think of transgender people or LGBTQIA+ . community, has not been talked about. Akmal was reading their stories in the local newspapers, community leaders (also in the movie) were coming out to speak to the media, there was the PIL issue, the movement was growing. This has been a challenging project for me, from language and culture to the gender spectrum,” says Dewan, 37, based in Delhi, whose previous projects have come from a personal space — a short document The Daughter of Nepal (2018), and Pakistani-American filmmaker Mara Ahmed Taksim documentary Thin Wall (2015), which Dewan co-produced and played a small role.

Trans Kashmir, Trans Kashmir Documentary, Kashsh Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Transgender Community Members, Kashmir, Hijra, Migration Community, Trans Women, Transgender Kashmir, Documentary, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, Indian Express News Still image from the movie showing Pablo.

A 2016 draft policy tasked medical boards with determining a person’s gender to issue transgender certificates. Ejaz Ahmed Bond, who runs Sonzal (Rainbow in Kashmir) charitable foundation for LGBTQIA+ . community and survivors of sexual assault, filed the PIL in Srinagar High Court in 2017, for “social, economic and political inclusion, rehabilitation of the hijra community, and recognition as a marginalized and vulnerable section of society,” Bond says in his book film Hegras Kashmir: A marginalized form of personality (2018) is the first ethnographic and documentation study of the transgender community in Kashmir.

Trans Kashmir, Trans Kashmir Documentary, Kashsh Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Transgender Community Members, Kashmir, Hijra, Migration Community, Trans Women, Transgender Kashmir, Documentary, Eye 2022, Sunday Eye, Indian Express News Q Complete Hanan and Sarbi Diwan

The political shutdown and the COVID-19 lockdown of 2019 have left them isolated, broken, homeless, unemployed, medically ill and out of touch. Doctors “refuse to even touch,” let alone treat them in hospitals, “the medical fraternity in Kashmir is the most insensitive, it prescribes shock therapy for LGBT+,” says Bond. Bullying, violence – verbal (insulting calls: lans, meaning helpless), mental/emotional, physical, even sexual – starts first at home, then at school. The new law (transgender people [Protection of Rights] Law, 2019) did not affect their lives. They still have to undergo medical checks for transgender certificates to prove their identity, access to social schemes (monthly pension of Rs 1,000), and only one of the five in our movie got it. Diwan says: “The issue of the political isolation law remains.”

Hanan adds: “Aging is a big problem, because they live (and die) on their own, not in the traditional immigration countries, which you see across South Asia.” And although they have been completely marginalized from the mainstream movement in Kashmir, says Bond, except for a few in the LGBTQIA+ community, including gay poet Agha Shahid Ali, the poetry of resistance in the past and trans women rebellious Javah who has been at the forefront of most protest marches, ” The majority of members of the transgender community just want a roof over their heads, education (separate schools), jobs, government schemes to reach them,” says Dewan, and perhaps also a change in social mindset. Until then, the younger generation will be leading their “struggle for social justice,” and “this movie is an extension of that,” she said.

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