New Delhi: Chandni,
27, braces for an early start to the day at 9 a.m. After a quick
breakfast of tea and snacks, the eunuch from the Nangloi area
steps out of her one-room office to greet around 50 supporters,
including men and women. She is a candidate for the Delhi civic
With a subtle smile on her face, Chandni talks to her aide about
the plan for the day and the neighbourhoods to campaign in Pratap
Vihar - ward no. 33 in crammed neighbourhood of outer Delhi.
Chandni, addressed as a 'hijra' by locals, is among the few eunuch
candidates contesting the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)
elections for the first time.
Ballots will be cast for 272 wards of the trifurcated MCD April
15. Close to 10 million voters will be eligible to cast the
This independent candidate belonging to the so-called third sex
stands strong with her poll mantra: "Nar dekha, naari dekhi, Is
baar kinnar ki baari. (You've voted for men and women, this time
vote for a transgender)".
"The first thing I tell people is that I am a 'kinnar'
(transgender). My gender speaks for my identity and will to bring
change in the administration," a confident Chandni told IANS.
It was in 2009 that eunuchs were allowed to enrol themselves and
contest the MCD elections as 'others' instead of male or female.
The move enabled the community to be part of the socio-political
Her election symbol is the kite, which stands for attaining height
and freedom, Chandni says.
Clad in a bright pink salwar-kameez, Chandni says her job of
giving blessings and dancing at celebrations is what triggered the
idea to contest civic polls.
While issues like poor sanitation, drinking water supply and
proper roads remain the focus of her poll promises, there have
been many hiccups in the journey so far.
"People of the area know me well, so they do not oppose my
presence. I am not so educated, but I am connected to the
grassroots and it has helped me know the problems of Pratap Vihar
and its residents," Chandni said.
"But there are times when men tear off flags and posters, pass
lewd remarks against me and my supporters. It makes me feel that
somehow kinnars are not socially acceptable," Chandni told IANS.
A native of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Chandni is inspired by her
guru Asha Devi who got elected as mayor of the eastern Uttar
Pradesh region in 2007. Shabnam Mausi, a eunuch from Madhya
Pradesh, also entered the legislative assembly from an open
constituency in 2000.
In the well-knit community, Chandni remains connected to other
eunuchs who are also fighting elections. According to the
community members, around seven eunuchs are contesting the civic
polls in Delhi. However, the Delhi election commission is yet to
ascertain the exact number.
Members of the four million-strong community countrywide feel the
move will have a ripple effect, taking the community away from
stigma and denial of basic rights.
"People will get to know that hijras are not just about clapping
and begging at traffic signals. It will have a ripple effect
within the community and larger society with empowerment as the
main focus," Abhina, a member of Alliance India, working for
HIV-AIDS among transgenders and MSM, told IANS.
But in the elections that seem more of a battle between the
Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), eunuchs are
contesting independently. The political majors have not fielded
any eunuch candidates.
"There was already a tough fight within the party for ticket
distribution. It would have been very difficult to support a
eunuch candidate when people from well-established political
backgrounds were in the fray," said a BJP source.
Even as obstacles loom and questions remain, activists say the
participation of eunuchs reflects a 'huge shift in attitude'.
"The very fact that a community that was looked down upon by
society is now standing for elections is a huge shift in mindset.
Let's see what this turns into," Anjali Gopalan, director of the
Naz Foundation, which advocates the rights of sexual minorities in
the country, told IANS.
With the onus resting with the people of Delhi, the picture will
be clear after the D-Day.
"I think it is governance and corruption that matter for people in
the elections. Gender, caste, creed stand nowhere if a candidate
wants to work for the people," said Sanjay Kaul, president of the
United Residents Joint Action of Delhi, the apex body of Delhi
residents' welfare associations.
Sonkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)