The Fate of Eunuchs in Politics

“The country is surrounded by demonstrations; I’m tolerating all the atrocities,

Look through those tears of eyes; I’m flowing away with them;

I cannot see more oppression in this country,

So while consuming venom as Shiva, I’m asking thee;

‘Where have all your emotions gone? Explore your minds too!’

And if it’s beyond your control then, hand over the country to kinnars (Eunuchs).”

So invigorating are these lines which are the direct translation of a Hindi poem- “Desh Kinnaro Ko De Do (Give away the Country to Eunuchs)”, written by a contemporary Hindi poet- Manohar Lal “Ratnam”. The poet laments and feels frustrated on seeing a complete failure of law and peace in India. Hence, he conveys that power should be handed over to Kinnars (Eunuchs) if it’s beyond the control of the so-called great men of the nation to handle the prevailing disorder and anarchy. But is not it shocking to hear a man demanding such a tabooed tradition to get metamorphosed for the betterment of his motherland- where the third gender’s people do not even get their fundamental rights as the citizens of that nation? Is not it ridiculous to discuss his notions which sound like a distant dream in a country where even women are not truly represented in politics?

In the culture of the Indian subcontinent, a “hijra” is considered to be a member of “the third gender” who is neither a man nor a woman. Usually, they live at the margins of society with a very low status. And sometimes, the word “hijra”, which is used to refer to them, is used in a very derogatory way too. Hardly any employment opportunities are available to them. So they get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging and from procuring, pimping or prostitution- some of the occupations of eunuchs as recorded in the contemporary society.

Despite of being humans like “us”, sometimes, they are even subjected to violence (especially hijra sex workers) which is often terribly brutal and occurs in public places, police stations, prisons and even in their homes. They seem to be fated to face an extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law and all those bureaucracies that fail to place them into male or female gender categories.

So to voice their plight when faced with health concerns and discriminations, many modern “hijras” have become politically active and have also formed organizations like “All-India Eunuchs’ Welfare Association (1993–94)”, “Dai Welfare Society (mutual aid society formed in 1999, Mumbai)”, “Hijra Kalyan Sabha”, etc .

In fact, in some of the rarest cases, they have also been elected to very high political positions. For example, Shabnam Mausi was the first hijra of India to become an MLA in 1999 (as an independent candidate) just five years after hijras were allowed to cast their vote. Another hijra, Kamla Jaan, was elected as the mayor of Katni (a district in Madhya Pradesh). Another hijra- Meenabai became the president of the Sehora town municipality- the oldest civic body of Madhya Pradesh. In 2005, a twenty-four-year-old hijra- Sonia Ajmeri ran for state assembly elections on an independent ticket to represent a population of around forty thousand eunuchs in Gujarat. The wave of hijras entering into the Indian politics has not been without controversy. When a hijra named Asha Devi was elected as the mayor of Gorakhpur in November 2000 on a post reserved for a woman, she was unseated as a court decreed that she was a man but was later reinstated.

On July 21, 2009, the Chief Election Commissioner of India- Shri Naveen Chawla declared that the hijra community will be issued voter identity cards with T (Transgender) mentioned in their gender column. It was the result of those protests which were staged by the hijra community which was demanding to be recognized as a separate gender.

But these are just a few exceptional cases where these people have tried to raise voice for themselves. As far as contesting elections are concerned, instead of getting any support of public or any sort of encouragement by people, hijras are treated like the biggest laughing stalks ever. Even when any hijra contests an election, she solely relies on the votes of the members of her own community while people like “us” mock at her on reading or hearing any such news in newspapers or TV channels. We all know that it is not at all a matter to be ridiculed but such is our tendency that we fail to empathize with their conditions. We are ready to worship Lord Shiva in his avatar of Ardhnareshwar but not ready to support our own breathens who, due to slip of fate, are biologically-deprived. We can admire the hijra dance artists who have been mentioned about in our mythologies like Arjuna in the form of Brihannala but not show any concern towards the living hijras of today’s society. There is a place for everyone in the society (even if she or he is blind, deaf or dumb) in the name of “differently-abled” persons but a hijra is disowned even by his own mother.

Life has already been so unfair to them that they have always been harshly exposed to the other side of it. Who knows, they might come-up with real solutions to our age-old problems if given a chance to prove themselves. Who knows, they might have that ability to understand some of the major problems of the nation without any self-vested motifs. Who knows, they might prove themselves as the most selflessly patriotic leaders of our country if given a true representation in the Indian politics- which is known for its largest democracy all over the world. With the support and encouragement of people, they can work hard to build this society a better place to live in.

When an unripened fruit gets detached from the branch of its tree, it gets rotten but when the same fruit is allowed to get ripened, it nourishes a creature with its goodness and sweet taste. The same rule is applicable in the case of hijras too. In order to bring them into the mainstream of population, they must be welcomed as the leaders of our country or else, they might develop a scornful contempt towards all those who neglect them. Such a continuance of negligence towards the largest section of unseen minorities of the Indian population on our behalf can also criminalize the members of this community.

Fighting away with racism, communalism, casteism, linguism, separatism, regionalism, terrorism, militancy, insurgency and extremism are the matters which deal with the divisions that are present within the society and are made by man himself. But fighting against the alienation, which is brought to a human by nature and later by the society, would actually prove one’s cause for honestly fighting in the favor of humanity. It would be the truest way to keep a human’s need in mind and so it should be our prime concern.

To conclude, I would like to quote the last stanza of the same poem of Manohar Lal “Ratnam”:-

“Give away the power to Kinnars, the country will prosper,

Then even after searching for terrorists, you would find none;

All the enemies of the nation will kneel down themselves,

When on the clapping of hands, the administration of kinnars would run;

Ratnam, then who would dare to illegally enter the country?

And if it’s beyond your control then, hand over the country to kinnars!”

If all this still doesn’t fit well into your mind then, at least, learn to be a human and from the next time, do shrug away even from the idea of mocking or diabolically smiling on seeing any hijra who passes by your way.

Aditi Swami

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