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Bengal polls, eunuchs party

For the transgendered people, the 1st phase of polls gave scope for a different tamasha, reports Mou Chakraborty.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 15:38 IST

In their glittering saris and red lipstick, they barged into the middle of a queue in front of a polling booth in Kolkata.

They clapped, laughed, made bawdy comments and even abused in Bengali. The eunuchs had arrived.

This time they were not capering for money. The intention was slightly political: send the voters scampering home. Sure enough, they were paid by the rival party.

For the 8,000-odd transgendered people in West Bengal, the first phase of assembly elections on April 17 gave scope for a different type of tamasha.

Says a eunuch from Howrah: "When 60-70 voters of the rival party line up before the booth, we get a signal to go ahead and start our tamasha. Disgusted, they leave."

The eunuchs' interest in elections ends there. "Why should we vote?" asked Bulbul Mausi from Kankinara. "When we go out, everyone laughs at us. Has the government ever done anything to give us some self-respect?"

Most of them are amused that they are in demand during elections - though for all the wrong reasons.

Before polling begins, the local politicians approach the "guru mata" or the head of the tribe of one particular area.

Says one of them: "In some areas several political parties approach us. Since we do not have any political favourites, the highest bidder is chosen." Each one gets anywhere between Rs 80 and Rs 150, plus lunch.

Hardly a significant vote bank, they are forgotten. "We are not mentioned in any election manifesto," said Bina Hizra from Bangaon.

"There must be some reservation for sexual minorities," says Koushik Chatterjee of Bodhi, an NGO that works with transgenders.

"The government has not done anything for them and so they are not excited about choosing a government." Does anyone from the community want to contest polls? No, they do not want to follow in Shabnam Mausi's footsteps.

First Published: Apr 20, 2006 15:38 IST