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Helpline to deal with eunuch 'menace'

Lucknow, Nov 21, 2012, IANS: 1:39 IST
Exploitative and greedy or misunderstood and desperate? The debate on eunuchs who make their living dancing and singing outside homes celebrating weddings or births has been a long-standing one.

Now, some citizens under the banner of Veteran Sahayata Samiti (VSS) here have launched a 24X7 helpline to deal with the “eunuch menace” to fight harassment.

The VSS in this Uttar Pradesh capital hopes to help those at the receiving end of hijras. It is believed that the gods have especially graced eunuchs, since they are neither male nor female.

The general belief is that when they dance or sing on a special occasion like a wedding or a birth many blessings come a family’s way.

But the Samiti volunteers point out that hijras are sometimes just lumpen, unemployed elements — not really eunuchs at all. And, there are occasions when they make exorbitant demands for money and people are often also intimidated by them.

Keeping this mind, the Samiti aims to set up small but effective clusters of influential people in all localities of the city to deal with the eunuch menace, say VSS volunteers.

“We face a resource crunch and cannot reach the distressed people in time. By the time we reach the place, these goondas in the garb of eunuchs generally flee,” said retired Col Mohan Chandra Papnai, the man behind the campaign.

Eighteen months ago, Papnai himself faced harassment at the hands of eunuchs when his pregnant daughter returned home for delivery.

Recalling his own experience, Papnai says, “I cannot explain the terror I felt. My wife sent me an SOS that these eunuchs had barged into the house. She had bolted the bedroom from inside to escape them.”

The Samiti has now also set up a drop box at the busy Pratap Market where people are free to drop any complaints. Papnai has also written to Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma for help.

“Some people are out to defame the community by engaging in forcible collection of money. In (Uttar Pradesh’s) Avadh region, it has always been a happy affair,” Payal, the leader of a eunuch group, said.

She added that eunuchs she knows are happy to receive what they are given, without making any demands. She, however, admitted that there were lumpen elements that had infiltrated the community and might be responsible for such instances of extortion.

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