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Santa Khurai's year-long relief effort for Manipur's queer community

The poet-activist has not only procured rations for those in need, but is also organising counseling services for members of the community

Santa Khurai, writer, poet, artist and a secretary of the state-level apex body for queer All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA)

Queer activists and organisations have organised relief for the community through the year, be it Nazaria in Delhi, which has been created a helpline, Grace Banu in Tamil Nadu or Mudraboyina in Telangana, who have set up Ketto fund-raisers. In Chennai, Kanaga Varatha, a 30-year-old transwoman who works as a consultant with an IT firm, had formed a WhatsApp group with three other friends and started a fundraising campaign to help the community with essentials and basic medical supplies.

One of the most significant efforts comes from Santa Khurai, a Manipuri indigenous Nupi Maanbi (transgender woman) from Manipur. She started the relief work by distributing ration to 2,000 trans people, including both trans men and women, in Imphal. The money didn’t come to Khurai, but was transferred directly to the vendor. “I went and procured the ration,” she says.

Gradually, these efforts expanded in scope. For one, she identified children of widows in her neighbourhood, who couldn’t attend online classes. So, Khurai, a writer, poet, artist and a secretary of the state-level apex body for queer All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA), put together a fundraiser on Ketto to get gadgets, wifi and stationery for kids. Three mobile phones were donated to children of three widows. She also bought a smart TV for a community library, so that more and more children could have access to educational content, while following distancing norms. She also had the financial support of National Council Churches in India (NCCI) in some of her endeavours. This is an ongoing effort, with support being given wherever necessary.

Khurai has also spent the past few months connecting mental health professionals with the transgender community. “On the ground, the situation is very different. The government has put aside 500 as money for the counselor. Who will do a job for this amount?” asks Khurai. So she roped in clinical psychologist, Paonam Thoibi, a mental health professional who has been working with her since the past few years. This counseling was given to trans inmates in the Transgender quarantine centre. “Later on, those within the community, who have mental health issues, reached out to me and we have continued to provide mental health counseling. The fee of the counselor is being given by the NCCI,” she adds.

The activist has also been working closely with organisations such as Goonj in Delhi, SAATHII in Chennai and Mountain People in Maharashtra to organise relief kits. However, she is upset by cis gender people, with their “fancy degrees” in social work, who claim to be helping the transgender community. But in reality few of their funds actually reach them. “They say they are empowering the grassroot community but in reality they are exploiting the vulnerability of marginalised people. I have experienced this during the lockdown and it hurts me, and is very degrading,” she says.

    26.12.2020 | 03:00 PM IST

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