The only transgender candidate in state elections in southern India has gone missing, police said on Wednesday, with fears that she was kidnapped on her second day of campaigning.
Chandramukhi Muvvala disappeared minutes after she left her one-room home on Tuesday morning in an informal settlement in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana state, city police said.
We have registered a complaint of missing person. We are trying to trace her,” Kanneboina Uday, investigating officer in the case told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday.
Muvvala is an activist with the Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti, a local advocacy group for hijras – or transgender women – which campaigns against transphobic violence.
India has about 2 million transgender people, according to the 2011 census. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that transgender people have equal rights under the law, they are often shunned and many survive through begging or sex work.
“We are very worried about her safety,” Bittu Karthik, a member of Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“There is disproportionate amount of violence against transgender people and as an electoral candidate, we fear physical violence can be used.”
The police said they have deployed special teams to trace Muvvala after a local court ordered them on Wednesday to produce her in court by Thursday morning.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a New Delhi-based advocacy group, said it was worried about speculation that Muvvala had been kidnapped.
“If fears of Chandramukhi’s kidnapping are well-founded, this is a serious attack on the right of Indian citizens to safety and security, as well as the welfare of the already fragile transgender community,” it said.
“The manner in which this case is handled will either serve to strengthen or weaken the trust the Indian LGBTQ+ community has in the state.”
Telangana’s state elections are due to be held on December 7