Telangana’s only transgender candidate for the upcoming Assembly polls, who went missing last week but returned to her Hyderabad home late on November 28, said that she would not withdraw from contesting the election. “Though this may affect my campaign a bit, I am in no way backing out of the election,” said Chandramukhi Muvvala, who looked visibly shaken as she waited along with her lawyer to be presented before the Hyderabad High Court on November 29. “Several attempts were made to convince me to withdraw my application, but I ignored them.”

Telangana will vote for a new Assembly on December 7.

Muvvala was the second such candidate to go missing in the state. A candidate from Gajwel constituency was reported missing on November 22 but was later found and produced before the High Court, where he said he had withdrawn his candidature.

The High Court had directed the police to produce Muvvala before it after her mother moved court. Going through Muvvala’s written statement on Thursday, the bench of Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Sathyanarayana Murthy “directed an investigation by the local police as well ordered for police protection to Muvvala during her election campaign”, said her lawyer Vasudha Nagraj.

Chandramukhi Muvvala at the Hyderabad High Court on Thursday.

‘Threatened earlier’

Muvvala, 32, is contesting from Goshamahal constituency of Hyderabad district on a Bahujan Left Front ticket. This new party is conglomeration of 28 minor political parties that is spearheaded by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Muvvala is among the 28 candidates vying for the seat. Others include Goshamahal MLA T Raja Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party and senior Congress leader Mukhesh Goud.

Muvvala went missing from her Indira Nagar home on Tuesday morning. Suspecting the involvement of rival political parties in her disappearance and peeved by the lethargic response from the police, Muvvala’s mother Anithaamma moved the High Court on November 28 with a habeas corpus petition. The court ordered the Telangana police to produce Muvvala before it the next morning.

Muvvala told this correspondent that she had been threatened to withdraw her candidature a few days before she went missing. In an earlier incident, a few men had forced their way into her home but they left after she shouted at them. Considering these to be scattered incidents she did not file a formal complaint with the police. She was also unable to say whether she suspected any particular person with regard to her latest ordeal.

Chandramukhi Muvvala, 32, talks with voters as she campaigns in Hyderabad’s Goshamahal constituency on November 26. She belongs to the Bahujan Left Front. (Photo credit: Noah Seelam/AFP).

First-person account

On the day she disappeared, Muvvala said that she had stepped out to deposit cash in a nearby ATM when she was accosted by two men who threatened her at knife-point and took away her phone. She suspects that she was subsequently drugged and said she was unable to recollect the exact sequence of events. She recounted travelling in an auto with a earphone fixed in her left ear and an object attached to her body under her clothing. She said that she heard a male voice giving her instructions via the earphone to go to Vijaywada, the Andhra Pradesh city 270 km away from Hyderabad. There, she bought two sets of clothing as instructed and took another bus to Nellore, 290 km away. She reached Nellore that evening, and the voice instructed her to eat something. This, she said, meant that someone was watching her. Soon afterwards she was asked to board a bus to Chennai, another 175 km away. She reached the Tamil Nadu capital early on November 28.

Muvvala said that all throughout her journey she was instructed not to cut the call as it would lead to her instant death. She said she feared that the object strapped on her body was a remote-controlled bomb, which is why she obeyed the voice giving her instructions.

At the Chennai bus stand, she said she waited awhile but could not hear the voice anymore. The presence of two transgender persons at the bus stand gave her courage, she said, which is when she asked an auto-rickshaw driver the best way to get back to Hyderabad. He took her to another bus stand, where she plucked out the object attached under her clothing and threw it away along with the earphone. She said she then got into a bus going to the temple town of Tirupati and attempted to hide herself in the bus out of fear that she was being followed. In Tirupati, she felt better. She then took a bus to Hyderabad, and reached at around 8 pm on November 28. Muvvala then took an auto-rickshaw to the Jubilee bus stand where members of the trans community usually meet.

Muvvala’s friends were relieved to see her. “We were all in a state of shock thinking the worst had happened to Chandramukhi,” said Rachana Mudraboyina, a trans activist and founder member of the Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti. “It was a moment of great joy to have her back amidst us.”

Vyjayanti Mogli, a trans activist, suspected the police was involved in Muvvala’s disappearance. “Is it mere coincidence that no sooner the habeas corpus was filed and the court ordered the police to produce her, our Chandramukhi came back the next day?” asked Mogli.

R Govinda Reddy, the station house officer of Banjara Hills police station, said that Muvvala had been given police protection and that once the police received the court order and the statement she presented before it, the police would investigate her case further. “So far evidence before us is the CCTV footage where one sees her walking from her residence of her own volition,” said Reddy.

Chandramukhi Muvvala with Brinda Karat, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who visited her on Saturday to extend solidarity.

Party extends support

Speaking over the phone, Hima Bindu, the state convener of the Bahujan Left Front, said that the party stood firmly behind Muvvala. The party has fielded candidates in 107 of Telangana’s 119 Assembly constituencies. Bindu said about seven party candidates had received threats to withdraw their nominations but reiterated that they will not be cowed down. Bindu said that 97% of the Bahujan Left Front candidates represent the marginalised community, which has generated tremendous enthusiasm amongst marginalised groups in the state.

On Saturday evening, as Muvvala climbed on to her election rath (a modified campaign vehicle) to restart her campaign, hundreds of members of the trans community danced to drumbeats. Brinda Karat, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was also present to extend solidarity.

According to the 2011 Census, the transgender community in undivided Andhra Pradesh is 43,769, which is contested by trans activists, who feel the figure is underreported. There are 2,739 electors from the transgender community in Hyderabad district, which has 15 constituencies including Goshamahal. Muvvala’s candidacy has given hope to many transgender people who have arrived in Hyderabad from several parts of Telangana to support her ahead of election day. “Trans persons lead a highly invisible life, forced to lead a life of fear, shame and indignity,” said Kiran from Mancherial district. She is a former government school teacher who quit her job, unable to cope with many problems including the insensitivity of her colleagues towards her trans identity. Transwoman Silk from Eragatta in Nalgonda district was another supporter. “We do not have voter or Aadhaar cards,” said Silk. “Finding a job is extremely difficult for us. Only someone from our community can represent our voices in the Assembly.”

Hundreds of members of the trans community danced to drumbeats when Muvvala restarted her election campaign on Saturday.