Shabnam Mausi became an icon for Indian transgenders when she became the first eunuch to be elected to a state assembly in 2002. But Mausi's story does not seem to have motivated her ilk in the national capital. Forget being part of the electoral system, many are not even interested in getting themselves enrolled so that they can vote.
So far only, 541 transgenders have registered themselves in the voters' list for the Delhi assembly elections slated for Dec 4. Delhi, being a sprawling mega city of 16 million people, has a sizeable population of transgenders.
But poll officials said very few transgenders have come forward to enroll themselves.
"The enrollment of transgenders, including eunuchs, is quite low; but this time the number has at least doubled," an officer in the Delhi Election Commission told IANS.
He said a lot of steps are being taken to motivate transgenders and marginalised groups to be part of the election process.
Till last October a mere 209 transgenders were enrolled as voters in Delhi.
Officials feel that apart from the eunuchs, many hesitate to register themselves fearing exposure.
"Most enroll themselves as males or females in the voter list," said another official. The election commission has a separate category for 'others' in the electoral identity cards, which was included in 2010.
"Those who have enrolled themselves as 'others' mostly belong to east Delhi," the official told IANS.
India granted transgenders voting rights in 1994. According to Shabnam Mausi, a former member of the Madhya Pradesh assembly, transgenders in the national capital are scared to be identified.
"Delhi's transgenders are scared to come out of the closet," the 50-year-old told IANS on phone from Bhopal.
"I know that some of them belong to wealthy families," said Mausi, 50, who is the first transgender to be elected to public office. She said this time too she will stand in the elections as an Independent candidate. Mausi was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh assembly from 2002 to 2007.
After her, Kamla Bua became famous when she was elected mayor of Bhopal in 2009.
"It is very unfortunate that they (transgenders) do not want to come out in the open and categorise themselves as 'others'," Mausi added.
Ekta Khan, a resident of Nand Nagari, dittoed this.
"Many are still scared to be identified, though some of them have come out in the open in the past few years. It is a tough decision. Not many have the courage. They don't want to be exposed," Khan said.
"I know we can cash in on this time. We can tell the candidate who comes to woo us for votes that we will vote for him en masse if he or she does something for us, for our development.
"I have tried to tell this to others (in the community), but unfortunately many of them don't understand the importance of the electoral system," Khan told IANS.
According to a member of NGO SPACE that works for eunuchs in Delhi, many are not even aware of the electoral process.
"There is a lack of awareness among the community. Many of the eunuchs live in backward areas and in deplorable conditions. The need of the hour is to educate them and tell them how voting can empower them," said Anjan Joshi, a senior member of SPACE (Society for People's Awareness, Care and Empowerment).
Around 15,000 to 20,000 eunuchs live across Delhi, Joshi said.