By Moumita Ghosh:
“Coming from this community, I never thought I could win.” – Madhu Bai Kinnar, the nation’s first transgender mayor, said in an interview to the Wall Street Journal when asked about the challenges she might have faced while contesting the elections. Talk about intersectionality! Being a transgender and hailing from the Dalit community, besides being an independent candidate with no experience, in times of regimented political polarities which come with their propagandist extravaganza and pompous campaigns, the confession from the 35-year old, who is being cheered on world-wide for having scripted history, does not come across as much of a surprise. Like a majority of transgender people in India, Madhu, who was born as Naresh Chauhan, left home at fifteen to be a part of the hijra community- the mere presence of the members of this community at traffic signals is met by deliberate aloofness and a sly rolling up of our cab windows. After having spent some fifteen odd years begging on trains and performing at weddings and birth ceremonies, when asked by the Wall Street Journal on what possibly prompted the bug to run for mayor, Madhu replied- “One day, I was roaming around the office of the top bureaucrat in the district and they were accepting applications. I felt I should apply too. My gurus [spiritual advisors, older transgender people] encouraged me. I filed my papers the next day.”
Madhu, who contested as an independent candidate in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh, a state struck largely by the Modi wave, won by bagging a whooping 33,168 votes last Sunday to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mahaveer Guruji by a margin of 4, 537 votes while Congress’s Jethuram Manhar also featured among the defeated opponents. However, she is not the first from the transgender community to be elected as mayor although she might be the first to successfully serve her tenure. According to The Telegraph, both Kamla Jaan, who became mayor of Katni in united Madhya Pradesh as an Independent in December 1999 and Asha Devi who was elected from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh in 2000 – were disqualified for contesting posts reserved for women unlike Raigarh’s mayoral post.
‘Transgender’ as a sexual identity was not acknowledged before. Although the first step was taken by the Election Commission, way back in 2009, by including the option ‘other’ under the category of gender on ballot forms, this news also comes after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement in April, last year, which conferred the status of the “third gender” on the transgenders, and the Delhi University’s decision, four months after, to accept applications from both transgender students and teachers, thus making Madhu’s victory a step forward of sorts in its amalgamation of both institutional and social acceptance.
Political parties would not agree with this view though as they seem to be busy dismissing the victory as some unimportant brouhaha and are giving more importance to the fact that their main opposition party did not win. Raigarh district Congress (urban) president Narendra Negi was quoted as quipping-“There was no Modi wave in Raigarh this time. People of Raigarh were fed up with the corruption of BJP, hence they voted for Madhu. It is not Madhu Kinnar’s victory, but it’s a loss of BJP.” (Source) Hence, it is not surprising when Madhu said something like this –“…nobody even congratulated me from the major parties when I won the seat. I guess they were scared that a Hijra’s curse could be bad for their electoral ambitions.”
While Congress blatantly shrugged off Madhu’s victory, we are wondering if BJP is planning to include the tales of Shikhandi in the NCERT textbooks, in their quest to present the “Hindu” culture in all its glory? No? That’s strange.
Madhu’s victory which she largely credits to the youth is just many of those first steps in realizing a world where transgenders will not be considered as the “other” anymore. While we are still hoping that the State would step out of our bedrooms and repeal IPC 377, here’s wishing Madhu Bai lots of luck and best wishes from us.