The Telegraph
 
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Poll voice of minority of minorities

Ranchi, March 6: You cringe when they clap raucously and ask for money, they clam up when anyone tries to pry into their lives, but transgenders forced to live in the shadows are in the spotlight thanks to the recent Election Commission (EC) voter list for Lok Sabha polls.

In a state with over 1.99 crore voters, only 26 transgenders are officially on the list, making them the minority to beat all minorities.

But, the number bares an anomaly.

The 2011 Census had no head for the third gender, who were classified under males, said S.K. Gupta, Census directorate (Jharkhand).

Last year, when booth-level officers started preparing voter lists, they arbitrarily put names of transgenders under male or female heads. When some complained, TG (transgender) category was created.

Though the number under TG is all of 26, it is still a victory of identity.

Transgenders, as social cast-offs, live mostly as beggars, sex workers and performers. Their blessings are still sought for new-borns. The close-knit community follows the code of their gaddi (sect).

The Telegraph spoke to around 20 transgenders in Old Ranchi’s narrow and garbage-choked Noor Basti, where reportedly some 45 of them live in congested shanties.

Of them, 12 said they had voter ID cards. Three showed new cards where their sex was stated as TG (transgender), while the rest were classified either as male or female.

Noor Basti’s Tamanna was outspoken. “Everyone forgets we are humans and have the right to vote. Male, female, how does it matter what we are to anyone?” the transgender with a TG voter ID said.

Kaun hai aap aur kya karne ayein hain ? Kise khoj rahein hain ? (Who are you and what have you come for? Who are you looking for?” a bass voice demanded. This was Anwar aka Annu Haji (76), the undisputed clan head.

Classified as a female voter, Haji unbends after persuasion. “After much difficulty, I got a voter card,” the septuagenarian said, showing the female status. “Twenty members of my extended family have voter ID cards. Okay, we keep moving from one place to another but we have a permanent home. When the government ensures voter ID cards for sex workers, why not for us?” Haji, the head of the Jamal Miyan sect living in and around Ranchi, asked.

Haji claimed there were some 4,000 transgenders scattered in Sahebganj, Rampur Haat (Dumka), Gomo, Rajauli, Chakulia, Bermo, Chandanpura and Chakradharpur.

“Many among us applied for voter ID cards this time,” Haji said with flat cynicism. “Who cares for us? They (government officials) look at us as if we are aliens. Last time, we had visited an office, the babus thought we came to beg,” said Poonam Kinnar, a transgender without a voter ID.

For a crash course on international and national politics, Haji can be most enlightening.

“Do you know people like us (transgenders) in America supported Barack Obama in his re-election as President?” On the Indian scenario, Haji says: “How can Narendra Modi manage India when he could not manage Gujarat?”

Asked for the reason behind this neglected section, Jharkhand chief election officer P.K. Jajoria said: “We make every attempt to ensure not a single person is missed. Transgenders can lodge grievances with the EC. The complaints will be looked into.”