Transgender in fray in bandit land

Transgender Neha Kinner's election campaign in Ambah seat in Bhind, which was notorious for bandits in past, draws huge crowds. Will Chambal rewrite a gender history? (DH Photo/Anand Mishra)

In the ravines of Chambal region where ‘mardangi’ (male valour) is a fad, a transgender is trying her luck in the election from the Ambah Assembly seat of Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind, known as ‘bandit land’ in the past.

Meet 28-year-old political greenhorn Neha Kinner, whose huge posters and cutouts dot the walls in this dusty hamlet, outnumbering those of Congress and BJP candidates. And the crowd response in villages has numbed the known candidates.

The million-dollar question is whether Neha will repeat the history of Shabnam Mousi, the first transgender MLA in the country, who had won as an independent candidate in 1998 Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh, from Sohagpur constituency in Shahdol-Anuppur district. MP also gave the nation the first transgender mayor— Kamla Jaan in 1999. This when there are only around 14,000 transgender voters in the state even now.

Neha is one of the six transgenders who filed their nomination papers as independents. At least two of them are testing the electoral waters for the first time.

Other transgenders contesting are Shabnam Mousi (61) from Kotma, Shabbo Rehana (56) from Damoh, Paanji Deshmukh Kinner (44) from Hoshangabad, Shalu Mousi (36) from Jaisinghnagar and Bala Veshwar Kinner alias Bala Didi (29) from Hoshanagabad. Shabnam is contesting for the fourth time.

But Neha’s fight from the caste cauldron of Bhind has an added political dimension. She is supported by an upper-caste movement— SAPAKS, the acronym for Saamanya Picchada Alpsankyak Kalyan Samaj Sanstha, which came into being sometime ago after the MP government moved the Supreme Court challenging the Jabalpur High Court’s decision to quash quotas in promotions.

Vivek Tomar, a Thakur by caste overseeing the election campaign of Neha, says upper caste and OBCs want to teach both the BJP and the Congress a lesson for their ‘unjustified tilt’ towards the Scheduled Castes.

“OBCs and upper castes together constitute 70 % of voters of this Assembly seat but Ambah is a reserved seat because of its 30% Scheduled Caste population. We have to show them what strength we have. Congress and BJP leaders make false claps on SC/ST. Neha will give the real clap in Assembly this time,” he says.

The campaign trail of Neha Kinner is shared on YouTube as ‘Neha Kinner Janakrosh (public anger) rally’.

DH caught up with Neha, who is a Class 8 passout, during one such campaign. Unaware of the larger causes, for Neha, who earned a livelihood by singing and dancing, politics and people’s association is perhaps a grand escape from her earlier routine chore.

“Even if I lose, I will continue to work with people,” she says, adding that she has never been acquainted with politics.

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Transgender in fray in bandit land

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