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Wednesday Jan 19, 2022
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Virus left transgender Kashmiris ‘on our own’


Nepalnews
2021 Jun 15, 11:04, India
A transgender Kashmiri Maliaka Sheikh, in tradition attire of Kashmiri dancers, poses for photographs inside the home of a friend on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Photo: AP

Singing and dancing at weddings used to earn Khushi Mir enough income to take care of her family. Until the pandemic.

Lockdowns to curb the coronavirus in Indian-controlled Kashmir canceled weddings and musical evenings. Bills for Mir’s rented accommodation mounted.

Unable to pay, 19-year-old Mir took a job as a construction worker for 15 days. It paid $9.60 a day but left Mir’s hands bruised and skin peeling.


Mehak Mir, a transgender Kashmiri, stands for a photograph at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir
Photo: AP
Mehak Mir, a transgender Kashmiri, stands for a photograph at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir Photo: AP
The 35-year-old transgender Kashmiri Shabnam Ganie prays at home in Srinagar
Photo: AP
The 35-year-old transgender Kashmiri Shabnam Ganie prays at home in Srinagar Photo: AP

“I had no other option,” Mir said. “I needed to provide for my family.”

Mir is transgender — belonging to a marginalized community in Indian-controlled Kashmir whose members are often only able to find work as matchmakers or wedding entertainment.

Prolonged coronavirus lockdowns, preceded by a strict security lockdown in the region in 2019 when India scrapped Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, left many in the transgender community with no work at all.


Bilal Ahmed, a transgender Kashmiri, carries a bag of rice distributed as food handout by a group in Srinagar
Photo: AP
Bilal Ahmed, a transgender Kashmiri, carries a bag of rice distributed as food handout by a group in Srinagar Photo: AP
A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, right, helps her mother in the kitchen set up in the corner of a rented room on the outskirts of Srinagar
Photo:AP
A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, right, helps her mother in the kitchen set up in the corner of a rented room on the outskirts of Srinagar Photo:AP

Left without livelihoods, some stepped up to help each other.

Mir and four others made a volunteer group to distribute food. So far, they have provided ration kits for nearly 220 people, many of them makeup artists, singers and matchmakers who have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic.

Life has not been easy for many of Kashmir’s transgender people. Most are ostracized by families and bullied in society. They face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources.


Babloo Shiekh, a transgender Kashmiri, sits for a photograph at home in Srinagar
Photo: AP
Babloo Shiekh, a transgender Kashmiri, sits for a photograph at home in Srinagar Photo: AP
Transgender Kashmiris Azimi Bhat, right, Hinna Bhat, center and Khushi Mir converse outside their guru's house at the end of a special meet of their community members
Photo: AP
Transgender Kashmiris Azimi Bhat, right, Hinna Bhat, center and Khushi Mir converse outside their guru's house at the end of a special meet of their community members Photo: AP

They are a tiny minority in a region that has been fraught with violence and political instability and has known little but conflict since 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent ended and Kashmir was divided between the newly created India and Pakistan.

Living in the shadows of conflict, coupled with the recent crisis of the pandemic, pushed the community further to the margins.

“We have been ignored by everyone,” said Chandini Shaikh, a matchmaker and singer who lost her job during the pandemic. “We have been left on our own.”

Transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir rests in her rented room 
Photo: AP
Transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir rests in her rented room Photo: AP
Sabu Sheikh, a transgender Kashmiri, walks homeward after collecting food handouts 
Photo: AP
Sabu Sheikh, a transgender Kashmiri, walks homeward after collecting food handouts Photo: AP
Hinna Bhat, a transgender Kashmiri, cooks as Naina, face covered to hide identity, stands beside during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar
Photo: AP
Hinna Bhat, a transgender Kashmiri, cooks as Naina, face covered to hide identity, stands beside during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar Photo: AP
transgender Kashmiri Manu Babo makes an instagram video at home in Srinagar
Photo: AP
transgender Kashmiri Manu Babo makes an instagram video at home in Srinagar Photo: AP
A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, left, relaxes with friends at the end of a meeting of community members in the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir
Photo: AP
A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, left, relaxes with friends at the end of a meeting of community members in the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir Photo: AP
Nadira Haji, a transgender Kashmiri guru, speaks during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar
Photo: AP
Nadira Haji, a transgender Kashmiri guru, speaks during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar Photo: AP
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