We are more than vote bank: City transgenders

Mumbai: In the Ghatkopar’s Gokul Colony, a densely-populated slum cluster with mainly Dalit population resides Smriti Kumari. Every morning, Smriti gets ready and leave for her job, which is collecting alms in the Mumbai’s suburban railways.

Smriti, a graduate in commerce, once worked as a stenographer at a private firm. But, due to the unwanted stares and irksome comments that came from the employers and clients, Smriti chose to walk away and lead the life, which according to society, is meant for her, which is — Begging.

“Transgenders are still not legally recognised in our country. People feel we are not humans as if we come from a different planet,” says Smriti.

Smriti informs once she approached the police to lodge a complaint when a client in her previous workplace teased her and tried to physically assault her. But in the police station, the officer refused to file a complaint and drove her away by handing her a Rs100 note.

“Even the law is biased, the only time we garner attention is when election is around the corner, that too only if we possess valid documents to vote,” she added.

With the assembly election scheduled for October 21, Smriti says local politicians of the saffron brigade often invite members of the transgender community to show their liberal mindset and also because the Hijras occupy a special place in Hinduism.

“The politicians use our presence to expand their vote bank, no matter whether we are deprived of every basic right,” said Radhika, a transgender, who is often approached by local politician to accompany them on their campaign trail in the transgender community.

Living clos to railway tracks of Mahim station, Radhika’s needs are met by begging and sometimes dancing at wedding parties. Radhika was forced to leave school when she was 13 as she was “different” and the school authorities didn’t accept her.

Her mother died soon after which she was on streets. Six months later, she was rescued by a senior “Didi” of the transgender community. Since then, she has being living on the tracks at Mahim.

“We are deprived of health and medical facilities. We don’t get any reservation in the employment sector. The netas give only assurances. Once the elections are over, they don’t have the time to visit us and we don’t get to see them,” alleged Radhika.

Though the transgender protection of rights bill was passed in August, the transgenders feel this is mainly a government gimmick to outline its liberal image.

“No matter which bill is passed, nothing will help unless the mindset of the people is changed,” says Pragati Jhunjhunwala, a transgender and social activist fighting for the LGBT rights.

“Unless a member of our community is there in Parliament, our voices won’t be heard,” she added.

Earlier, in the Lok Sabha, two members of the transgender community contested the election from the Mumbai North East and Mumbai North Central constituencies.

Though their candidature was mowed down by the Sena-BJP’s land sliding victory, the hopes are still alive that a fine mornng “our dreams will come true.”

“The transgenders are the only liberal species of humans that is left on earth. We accept everyone and treat them equally,” says Pragati, informing, until there is at least one member representing them at either of the houses of the Lok Sabha they won’t give up their fight.

“But acceptance is a two-way process. Our society needs to consider us as their own. The netas need to look at us beyond their vote bank. No matter how much society pretends to be liberal, they are still living with an archaic mindset,” concluded Pragati.

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