LAHORE: Neeli Naaz, a transgender rights activist spends her day working as a choreographer and has never begged for a minute in her life. Or so she claims.
Yet, she accuses the police of implicating her in a false case of begging which led to her spending a week in Adiala Jail. Neeli, who runs the Khawaja Sara Welfare Society Androon-e-Lahore and a dance academy in the Taxali Gate of the Walled City, says she has been working for many years. Therefore, it is all the more heartbreaking for her when she is accused of begging.
She recalls that on the night of July 7, she was returning to Lahore after a two-day visit to her student Billi’s home in Islamabad and offering reverence at Imam Bari Sarkar’s mausoleum. As she and another friend, identified as Sundri, were about to set off for the journey back home from Faizabad Bus Terminal, a police team intercepted them.
Neeli remembers that two policemen on a bike asked them for their identity, which they produced. Both were frisked thoroughly before being escorted to the police station for identification in a case of pickpocketing in Faizabad.
They took them to Industrial Area-I-9 police station in Islamabad, but no pickpocketing victim was present to identify them. Police jailed both people and started misbehaving when questioned about the reason for their detention.
Neeli adds that the police also took custody of their mobile phones and valuables. “I had Rs3,400 with me and they never allowed us to contact our families.” The detainees were finally told that they would have to wait for the SHO, who was scheduled to arrive at the station on the morning.
When the officer arrived, the staff briefed them that an FIR, under the Begging Act, had been registered against them. It was stated that Rs80 were recovered from Neeli and Rs70 from her student Sundri. The incident left Neeli extremely distressed as she insisted that there was no wrongdoing on her part.
They were the paraded through an assistant commissioner’s office and onto a kutchery before being shifted to Adiala Jail.
The perilous journey
Before leaving for the bus terminal, Neeli and her friend had informed their families that they would reach home in the morning. When they failed to arrive, the family searched the National Highway, Motorway and GT Road police stations as well as hospitals and morgues.
The family had even started making arrangements for their funerals. Meanwhile, in Adiala Jail, the two transgender persons managed to convince a guard to let them inform family members of their whereabouts.
The family pursued their case and freed them after paying a fine of Rs20,000. Neeli said they also had to spend Rs12,000 rupees in a lawyer and return the Rs18,000 Billi had spent on searching for the two detainees.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2019.