Kochi: Support is pouring in from various corners for Sajana Shaji, the transgender woman from Kochi who was harassed and attacked for starting wayside food vending. From state health minister KK Shailaja to celebrities from the Mollywood like actor Jayasurya, many have come forward extending support to Sajana who took it to social media to share the bitter experiences she had to face for venturing into the sale of biriyani along roadside in the outskirts of Kochi.
Sajana, who has a license from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for food sale, was working in the online food delivery sector. After losing her job during the pandemic crisis she decided to take up wayside food vending.
“We launched the biriyani sale three months back and was doing good business. The food vending was the only means of living for five of us, four trans women and one trans man. But, issues started one month ago when a group of men, who are engaged in street vending near our mobile cart, started badmouthing on us and on our food. They regularly insulted us and propagated that our food products are of substandard quality. This adversely impacted our business and we could not even sell 50 food packets and failed to pay the groceries bill," Sajana told Deccan Chronicle.
"We have been tolerating the insult for nearly a month. With no one to help, I decided to reveal our miserable situation through a Facebook live video which went viral. I am grateful to all those who promised to support us,” she added.
The video has changed the fate of Sajana, a graduate, who has been living in Kochi for several years now. In her Facebook page, the health minister promised police protection as well as immediate financial assistance to her under the ‘We Care’ project of the Kerala Social Security Mission. “Transgender persons have equal rights like other citizens. No one will be allowed to harass them,” the minister said.
Many celebrities from the film industry like Fahadh Faasil, Vinay Forrt, Rima Kallingal, Nazriya Nazim shared Sajana’s story in solidarity. Nazriya shared the Facebook live video with the remark ‘please let live, be kind’.
“Shailaja teacher, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Anoop Jacob MLA, A.M Arif MLA and several top officials and people from various walks of life contacted us and promised support. Actor Jayasurya has promised financial support to open a restaurant. We are in search of a suitable space in the city and hope to resume the food business at the earliest. I will be able to provide job opportunities to more persons from our community,” added Sajana.
There are allegations that the police didn’t take any action based on the complaint submitted by the transwoman. “The authorities including the police and municipal officials took a discriminatory attitude towards Sajana’s case. As a token of support to her, the Youth Congress activists will conduct a biriyani fest on October 18 in which 2000 packets of biryani prepared by Sajana’s team will be sold,” said Raju P Nair, district Congress Committee general secretary.
Meanwhile, Tripunithura police have registered a case based on the complaint.