A missing transgender activist campaigning for a state assembly seat in the southern Indian state of Telangana has turned up safe and well after fears she had been kidnapped.
Police told CNN Chandramukhi Muvvala had presented herself at the police station, but had not given a statement because of an active writ of habeus corpus, filed with a court after she was reported missing by her daughter on Tuesday.
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"Because of the habeus corpus, we have to first produce her in court," said Banjara Hills assistant police commissioner KC Rao. "Then we will record her statement and start the investigation."
Alarm had been raised about Chandramukhi's whereabouts after she had not been seen since earlier this week, even as political campaigning for next month's state elections continues.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a New Delhi-based NGO, said in an open letter to Indian authorities that Chandramukhi Muvvala had been "untraceable since Tuesday morning."
"She went missing the day after starting her election campaign and there is concern that she may have been kidnapped," the group said.
Voters in Telangana go to the polls early next month to elect new state legislators, along with four other regions, races which are seen as something of a barometer for the upcoming general election in 2019.
Long fight for rights
India's transgender community, known as "hijras," can date their origins as far back as 3,000 years ago with mentions in the Hindu epics "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana."
During the Mughal Empire, which ruled the Indian subcontinent between 1526 and 1858, they are believed to have held significant power, serving as royal advisers and protectors of royal harems.
Their status deteriorated rapidly however during the British empire.
Today, according to The Hindu newspaper, up to 4.8 million people in India identify as trans or intersex. Trans people are also visible in Indian entertainment and popular culture to an extent not seen in many other Asian countries.
Despite this however, the community is among the most marginalized in the country, with access to education and subsequently jobs mostly nonexistent.
In July, the southern state of Kerala announced it would reserve places for transgender students in the state's higher education institutions, a policy aimed at easing their stigmatization and one of the first such moves at a state level.
Other states, such as Tamil Nadu in the south, have also introduced policies to help transgender people in recent years. For example, the Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Board addresses social protection needs like housing, health care, income assistance and skills training. But Kerala is considered to be amongst the most progressive states in the country.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India established rights of equality and equal protection for transgender people nationwide. However, physical and sexual violence against transgender people is extremely high, according to official statistics, and laws protecting the rights of trans people have yet to be passed despite years of debate.
In May, a mob whipped up by fake accounts spread on the messaging service WhatsApp attacked and killed a transgender woman they falsely accused her of being a child trafficker.
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