Eunuch or ‘Hijra’ – the third sex in India

Before delving into our current title, I would like to make a small note on three important (re-)defined terms which I came across reliable sources in the internet: Gender, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming.

Gender: Prior to John Money’s work in 1955, the word “gender” was commonly used to refer to grammatical categories only. Gradually, as various sociological contexts were understood or emerged, this term also evolved in its definition. It now assimilates the aspects of biological sex (i.e., male or female or inter-sex), social roles (as the Hijra of India and Pakistan) or gender identity. In simple terms, it distinguishes between masculinity and feminity in a broader socio-cultural context which is also time-specific. The socio-cultural contexts include considerations for class, race, ethnic group, age and poverty level.

Gender Equality: It means that rights, needs, interests, resources, responsibilities, protection and opportunities (including decision-making) must be equal for all, irrespective of their sex or socio-cultural diversity. The United Nations Millennium Project that aims to end world poverty by 2015 claims that no society can develop in a “sustainable” manner unless it is modelled on gender equality.

Gender Mainstreaming: It is the process of integrating a gender perspective into all policies, legislations, programmes and activities in political, societal and economic spheres, at all levels, to transform that which generates or perpetuates gender inequality. Therefore, the ultimate aim of this socialisation process is to achieve gender equality.

Now, coming to the topic…

The eunuch or Hijra (in Hindi) is usually considered as a social stigma in India. Though the concept of “third sex” or “tritiya prakriti” exists in India from its ancient era, it was formally recognized in India in 1994. At present, “third sex” is being recognized in India with an option to identify them as “Eunuch (E)” on Passports and on certain other documents. However, it is yet to be accommodated fully in all other departments. Though there are efforts seen within and outside the Government to grant the basic civil rights to the eunuchs, it is still discriminatory in many cases. For example, in 2003, the Election Commission of India did not allow eunuchs to vote, unless they identified themselves either as male or female. In 2009, three eunuchs were not allowed to contest election, citing the very same rule- male or female.

The discrimination towards eunuchs is not new in modern India. During the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate eunuchs, citing them as a breach of public decency. Eunuchs were labelled as criminal tribe and were placed under the Criminals Tribe Act, 1871. They were subjected to compulsory registration, monitoring and stigmatized. However, on a positive note, independent India de-notified this in 1952; still the century-old stigma continues which labels the Hijra only as a social role and not as a “third sex”.

For their survival, the Hijras have developed a secret language called Hijra Farsi, which has a sentence structure loosely based on Urdu and a unique vocabulary of at least thousand words. Beyond the Urdu-Hindi speaking areas of the Indian subcontinent, this vocabulary is still used by the Hijra community within their own native languages.

On a socio-economic analysis, eunuchs in India live at the margins of the society, with a derogatory reference to the term Hijra. Hijras are not defined by specific sexual orientation, but rather by renouncing sexuality altogether. Many believe that their sexual energy is transformed into sacred powers. For this very reason, the Hijras were employed in royal houses and during ‘hom’ (a Hindu ritual of making holy offerings) in the past. Until even a few years back, the Hijras were invited by rich families /landlords to distribute sweets and clothes to the poor during festivals or bless a bride on the day of her wedding. But in reality – Hijras are today often self-employed as prostitutes for survival reasons.

It is often noticed that without any major employment opportunity and social acceptance, eunuchs in general get their income by begging, sex-work, working as escorts, performing ceremonies, etc. Study conducted by Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka in 2003, is an eye-opener in many forms. Without any social acceptance and with the discrimination in health-care, education, employment, income, housing, legal and social justice, etc., eunuchs in India are forced to live in sub-standard conditions and in inhuman life style. With a eunuch population of 10 lakh or more, and with such little efforts, the acceptance of the “third sex” in the Indian main stream is a dream that may not be fulfilled at all in the near future. Unless a comprehensive civil rights legislation is enacted to offer eunuchs the same protection and rights as guaranteed to the two other forms of biological sex i.e. male and female, nothing can be expected from the society.

The religious India however treats the Hijras in a different form – the bahuchara mata in Gujarat, a form of ardha-nari-swar (Lord Shiva and Parvati) and the aravanis in Tamil Nadu. On a different note, beginning 2006, eunuchs were engaged to accompany Patna city revenue officials to collect unpaid taxes, receiving a 4-percent commission. India’s first eunuch legislator, 40-year-old Shabnam Maushi joined the mainstream politics in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000. The success story of Shabnam Maushi has encouraged other eunuchs in India, resulting in more of their participation in Indian politics and policy-making as Mayors, Legislators, Councillors, etc. But surely, more remains to be achieved for them in any advanced civil society.

Moreover, as Gender Mainstreaming is gaining momentum in India, we should therefore no more ignore the eunuch or Hijra… but respectfully treat them and work for their well-being at par with every other strata in our society.

Aamjunta – What do you say?

Socialism in India – Some Ground Realities

A guest article by a fellow aamjunta

Implementation of socialism – whatever be its form or type – without properly educating (not just formal Degrees) the targeted audience, will always be a disaster anywhere in this world !!

I am now of the opinion that Socialism, whatsoever be the form or type, would be perhaps unwise to implement to the fullest extent in our country.

I have always tried to the best of my capacity, to extend all possible help and uphold fair treatment towards the section of Domestic Workers – during childhood under the guidance of my parents, then during working years in a self-motivated way and now, with more inspiration and support from my family-in-law. Irrespective of the communities and cities they come from, I find most of these people get disoriented from work at some point of time. Then they suddenly become highly ungrateful, rude or may be even disloyal to any extent !

I don’t buy the argument that disparity in wealth is the reason. Here are my observations regarding this point.

This section of people I am particularly talking about were initially in poverty and they have been through lot of struggle. Some of these families now control agricultural plots and/or produces. When they stepped out seeking work, there was no sign of disengagement from society, no resentment or a rebellious tone. They were rather focussed, sincere and polite. Hope bloomed in their lives in the form of better employment, they toiled and they prospered; they were able to send their kids to standard schools and colleges. They could avail most of the welfare schemes launched by the respective governments. In general, their living standards improved.

But almost all of them, at one point, still seem to lose their base… their humble connection to the soil or rather say, roots. They think they have become mega-haves, and it does not matter whether their achievements were by right or lucky charm or some sort of vote-bank politics or by their hard efforts.

This year, the Indian festival of Teej (Gowri Habba /Tay /Bali Trutiya) was on a Sunday, followed by Ganesh Chaturthi the next day. Our Cook had obtained an approved Leave for both the occasions, mainly to observe fasting. I also agreed to accommodate her preparing our dinner for Tuesday on the same day morning as she expressed her desire to celebrate her younger son’s birthday in the evening. The same schedule was also supposed to be repeated on Friday for her elder son. I also offered her half-duty on both these ‘birthday’ occasions so that she could make it early to her household and prepare well. Even Saturday’s ‘rotiz‘ (Indian bread) at dinner were agreed to be made during the day time, if it was not possible to do so in the evening.

All these, assuming traffic and unpredictable rain while her festival-shopping would be on. Things looked fine till Saturday late afternoon when I became doubtful… I called her up to ensure that she comes in the evening to at least make the ‘rotiz‘ for dinner. This especially because all the three ‘tavaas‘ (flat pans) in my kitchen got seasoned as per her expertise, including the non-stick ones which were reduced to raw pieces of iron plates – I just could not further manage making ‘rotiz‘ using them !

She did not respond to my three calls, though paced at good intervals. Thankfully somehow, my fourth call was received amidst hullabaloo of many busy bees (kids). Thinking that she might be shopping for the festival, I went on to ask her “when are you coming today evening ?… its fine even if you come at 10:30” (11:00 PM being her last slot and by her own suitable choice). Without any hesitation or an iota of guiltiness, she promptly replied “kyaaa Didi, ek din nahi khane se nahi chalega ???… aap bhi vrat kar lijiye naa !” (“Didi (an address to an elder sister in many Indian languages), can’t you skip meal for a day… you too can observe a fast !”)

I lost my cool for a few seconds. Not because I was bent upon having ‘rotiz‘ at dinner but the reason was that my generosity seemed to be unhesitatingly taken for a ride !! My granting extra Leaves or spontaneously agreeing to let my palate chew cold ‘rotiz‘ were not the only signs of free-handedness towards someone whose labour I equally respected like mine or anybody from the upper echelons of the society; there have been considerable ones- small and big, over the months.

Managing to quickly gather myself, I said “aap bhi ek kam kijiye- yahan aake khana banaiyye aur kuch khaa lijiye…ek din vrat rakh kar kya milega !” (“you too do one thing- come here, cook and do eat something…what would you gain by fasting just for a single day!”)

She perhaps understood the sarcasm. She then muttered that she would make it in the evening, which of course she did, though much reluctantly. And as if I was the person responsible for the incomplete cleaning activities in regard with the festival at her house !

I am sure all of us keep facing these type of situations in our daily lives in India- big or trivial…

These are not just isolated incidences. As I am preparing to launch my ideas and goals to improve lives of such classes of people in our society, these incidences in fact de-motivate me, weaken me. I am stuck with such confusion that it sometimes make me ponder for days if I am doing justice to all the other strata by attempting to uplift the plight of these folks… would I be really helping these under-privileged people in bettering their lives or simply fuelling their recklessness, vanity and ego ? Is the improvement in their financial and social conditions teaching them some sort of defiance in the wrong context ? Would this dwarf trend one day grow up into a big giant ?

These people are known to stir the most touchy heart-to-heart conversations, be the protagonists of almost all the famous writers and poets of the world, subjects of famous revolutions, real strength of kings and emperors, nature’s most admired children….. Now, where is that wonderful emotion gone ? Why these type of lackadaisicalness from the same folks ?!

These type of indifferent attitude and lack of work ethics is not limited to the  un-organized sector as illustrated above. Therefore, I do not see how moulding an un-organized sector into an organized one can help promote simple affairs of the heart ! And we are perhaps concerned more about those values and less about scheduled performances routinely guided by brains.

So, is it the absence of education (the intellectual or emotional wealth) in their families and communities ?

Perhaps, socialism minus education will always act in the negative direction. It will perturb the society even more. It is quite similar to saying that power corrupts without sanity !!! In the realistic world, it would be perhaps wiser to have two groups- one, that of educated and financially privileged people and the other, of rustic simpletons toiling hard, than to form a society based on all equal terms for every strata BUT minus the most effective factor of progress- education, whether of formal degrees or of moral lessons !

Its high time to quickly check Maslow’s pyramid vis-a-vis education, and may be along with a few other factors recommended by social scientists, psychiatrists, social activists, government authorities and other stakeholders. This is very much required, at least, in the present Indian scenario !

Aamjunta — what do you think ?

Yes to Telangana – Opening of the Pandora’s Box or another European Union !!

With the formation of 29th state of India – “Telangana” (carved out of 10 districts of earlier Andhra Pradesh, with some decisions pending regarding allocation of 2 more districts and the status of Hyderabad)… the political parties, the intellectuals, the political commentators are making calculated comments. Though there is a sense of pride and victory by some people of Telangana, the general mood of the people of remaining Andhra Pradesh (AP) and people of other parts of India is not happy about the way this particular issue was handled and the states are being created. One simple question always arises time and again – on what basis new states are being created in India – on political ground or, on language or, on religion or, on ethnicity or, on some growth-model or, on some kind of compulsion ?

It is certain that the creation of Telangana is more due to political reasons than that of administrative or governance or people centric ones. With 2014 General Election in mind, the UPA-II government in general, and the Congress in particular, have played a game to win more seats in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to counter the growing popularity of YSR-Congress and/or to take Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) into their coalition. This political will is yet to be ratified by the people in 2014 – time will be the best judge of course !!

Though it is being argued by TRS (in particular) that the creation of Telangana is to handle the (under) development of that region, it is not difficult to understand the political motives of TRS leaders. It is certainly a mix equation of power – hunger of power and abuse of power; hunger of power is more destructive than the the abuse of power though.  This also results in mistrust between common citizens or aamjunta, business men, companies, politicians in various degrees. The mistrust being created with the formation and demand of new states also have long lasting impact on the development of the states in particular and India as a whole nation. This is a very sensitive issue and needs to be handled carefully.

The impact of creation of Telangana is definitely not limited to Andhra Pradesh; its impact is being felt in Odisha in the form of Kosala, in Maharashtra in the form of Vidarbha, in Uttar Pradesh  in the form of Harit Pradesh, in central India in the form of Bundelkhand and in the East/North-East in the form of Gorkha Land… ! It may not stop there; it did not stop with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Goa before. The Pandora’s Box is opened now with many political compulsions, intentions and possibilities !!!

If we analyse the impact of creation of smaller states, we can certainly find two major points – (i) smaller states boost regional parties, which are definitely not a healthy sign for a democracy like India and (ii) smaller states bring political instability as in Jharkhand and Goa – 8 Chief Minsters in last 10 years (9  governments in last 13 years) in Jharkhand, and 14 governments in 15 years between 1990 and 2005 in Goa !! The instability can be frequently created by regional parties, especially in a coalition type of government.

Other than the above major points, smaller states give rise to intolerance, regionalism and selfish motives, which some times hinder the growth of India as a whole, and complicates the inter-state relations – water, mining, dams, power, etc. This also complicates the internal security as observed in New Delhi with many neighbours. Many fear that the anti-Maoist movement being carried out jointly by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, etc.  may also get diluted resulting in more and more kidnaps, bomb-blasts, killing and loots in different parts of the country.

Other than the above points, what bothers aamjunta is the possible political instability towards which India is heading with the current developments. It is almost certain that in the next General Election, no single political party will get simple majority at the centre; a coalition government led by Congress or a possible Third-Front government led by smaller parties are definitely not ruled out, and hence the fear of scams, corruptions, horse-trading will definitely rise. Even a possible BJP-led government at the centre will have many compulsions too ! Someone has rightly remarked – this will bring demons with crisis in democracy !!

The way we are creating smaller states with the above motives, an European Union model is not ruled out in India in the future – with one or two major partners (states) and many smaller partners (states) with political and financial instability.

Chanakya’s  (370–283 BC) “akhanda Bharat” (undivided India) is becoming “khanda Bharat” (divided India) !!

Aamjunta needs to awake, arise and take the centre-stage as a voter, implementer, jurist, businessman, student, teacher, social activist and others – for, by and of India.

Uttistha Bharata” (Arise India) !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say and how do you react ?

Jai Hind…

Another article on Regional Politics in India: Regional Political Parties – danger to Democracy and India?

Mid-day (Midday) Meals in India – a Challenging Task !

With all the recent tragedies and controversies associated with the Mid-day (Midday) Meal Scheme in Bihar, Odisha, UP, MP, Chattishgarh and other states, many like me must be wondering whether there is a need to re-look at the effectiveness of the scheme and/or whether this program should be stopped altogether. Some say that these are just isolated incidents that happen at times (random theory) and some like Chief Minister (Bihar) Nitish Kumar say that there is a conspiracy behind these incidents !

The ‘mid-day meal in schools’ programme in India that started in 1960 had the main objectives of protecting children against hunger and increasing school-enrolment and/or attendance. Other than these main objectives, mid-day meal programme had also aimed to achieve equality or social harmony among children of various classes and castes, and to provide employment to the unprivileged women. Though the key objectives are still valid in the changed scenario of today’s world, the promotion of social harmony or equality is still a myth !

It is true that there are many points to be discussed, many issues to be solved and many things to be proved or disproved by the Government, by the Officials, by the Media and by the so-called social Intellectuals and human-rights Activists…

Instead of going to the mode of another commentary, let me narrate my own experiences on the mid-day meal scheme.

I studied in a village school in the early eighties. Those days, government schools were the only mode of schooling in many parts of India (a few private English-medium schools, mostly managed by Christian Missionaries were there in the cities). We had three Teachers only to teach five classes/standards, each class/standard having 50-60 students. Teaching curriculum was definitely exhaustive those days. Other than teaching, duties such as preparing voter-lists, census, checking village sanitation, etc., were day-to-day activities of our Teachers.

Like many other schools, we too had mid-day meal programme, though not regularly. There was only one item – wheat kheer (porridge). We used to bring our own utensils from home and assist our Teachers in cooking the meals, cleaning the utensils and bringing the stocks from the local Block or Panchayat office; never received the full-quota – as these offices reserved their shares !

No external help or cook was appointed for this programme.

Every student was asked to bring some firewood from his/her home for the cooking (now I realize, that in fact, it was a punishable offence). I remember, some of my class-mates used to steal firewood from their neighbour’s backyards to avoid harassment in the school.

Since there was no tube-well in the school premises, we used to walk at least 2 km (to and fro) to bring drinking and cooking water; a very tough job during the hot summer and the rainy season.

I still remember… There were some broken-wheat supplied by the government for the programme; at least half of the stock used to go to the Teachers’ homes directly for their own use – like making sweets or feeding their cows ! Oil and Salt were also supplied; more than half of the oil was used at the feasts and for preparing snacks during the School Sub-Inspector’s visit or Village Committee’s visit to the school.

And the quality of the wheat was sometimes horrible; worms were almost certain and it was an every day affair. To handle the mid-day meals in schools, Village Workers and CDPOs (Child Development Project Officers) were appointed by the government. It is true that these officials used to visit school for inspections followed by a grand feast and a holiday for all of us. But these officials also had their shares in the mid-day meal programme !! We or our parents did not know whom to complain ?!? It was therefore hardly discussed even in casual get-together of our parents or guardians.

Speaking about social harmony and equality – there were high differentiations among the students based on castes (at least religion was not involved in our school) even while preparing food, bringing water and eating those meals. This ill trend reportedly continues in some schools even today !!!!

The mid-day meal program has continued for years… worsening day- by-day. For some, it is a business; for some, it is a mode of earning; and for some, it is just a single meal in the whole day !!

Taxpayers’ money is being regularly spent on such a programme, whose effectiveness is much debatable and it is still not made clear who is accountable for these tragedies; no proper monitoring system is yet in place ! There is definitely a huge lack of administration and accountability in this. Officials or Social-Workers, even when enabled with sufficient power, seem to fall short in carrying out or meting their responsibilities, and taking initiatives to prevent mid-day meal tragedies. There is an indifferent attitude in most of the cases – no one is really bothered. And the blame-game goes on as usual…

But is the government only to be blamed ? We too are responsible in many roles as – parents, teachers, village committee members, Sarpanchs, ward-members, officials, social observers, social activists, etc. We have been sleeping on the mega loopholes for years, even though we knew it was meant for our innocent little buds !!

Aamjunta – what do you think? It is time for you to act too…

Drifting Spirits

Whether it is Amarnath Yatra or Haj or any other pilgrimage, a few concerns have always bothered some of us !!

It is a fact that at some point in life, even some atheists among us tend to become extremely religious or try to take a spiritual discourse. This is a natural thing. Therefore, I am not at all opposed to such sentiments or pilgrimages. But linked to it, there are some concerns regarding Safety of the public and strength or mobilization of the Forces which must be primarily addressed.

Nothing should gain priority or significance to these two aspects.

Religion or such holy belief is only a way to realize or connect to God- whatever be the name. It is not universal. There may be some religions in the world still unknown to us. When compared to other religions or beliefs, some seem so simple or have such less followers that it may cast a doubt on its spiritual pursuit or existence even; these also tend to be forcibly preached in all possible ways.

Yet, religious fervour cannot be more than the awareness of public safety and a sense of national security. Because in its very essence, no successful religion has ever ignored such concerns of humanity and patriotism, and still claimed spiritual connection with the Almighty- that’s just not possible. Every page of history also proves this fact.

Let us consider the major pilgrimages of Uttarakhand- Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedarnath.

It is a treacherous terrain, and the rainy season further adds to its woes and makes it terribly unfriendly. First of all- the people, then the religious leaders, and the government should be very careful about such pilgrimages. The meteorological department may advise against a bad weather but no doubt, the initiative and go-ahead of pilgrimages always comes from the three classes I just mentioned. Such programs must be strictly limited to the summer months, however less counts of pilgrims turn up. Because a huge disaster like the recent one, causes not only loss of lives but also lot many inconveniences across societies. Some are not that candid.

The foremost of them being the burden on our already drained Forces. They are as such deficient in personnel with respect to the number, variety and quality of tasks they have to shoulder- foiling infiltration bids, counter-terrorism activities, watching the borders 24/7 right from Siachen to Kanya Kumari, serving as Commandos, building infrastructure in harsh terrains, some civilian utility jobs requiring military expertise, etc., etc. Even if a kid falls into a bore-well pit, the Army is called. Internally, they too deal with Maoism and other criminal activities daily. It has been gnawing at our roots since long. Our men, women, kids and environment- nothing is safe now.

Unfortunately, we also do not have enough of Police forces and the much needed infrastructure to address the ongoing issues. The state has failed to empower the Forces both in terms of number and might for various reasons, notably among it are huge corruption and red-tapeism. The Forces undergo a hard training and notwithstanding facilities or allowances, take home less salary than the white-collared jobs. During any crisis, they are the ones to first bear the bullets and their families are also awfully affected. Well, some may argue on the very selfless nature of their jobs.

But… when it is possible, why can we not avoid such unnecessary burden on our Forces and call for priceless sacrifices ?

In my opinion, spiritual realization or any similar enlightenment can be attained in other ways also. For example, helping the poor is a service to mankind and hence, a service or reverence to the Almighty. Howsoever ardent I might be, I cannot justify myself in unnecessarily straining our Forces (or unduely risking other people’s lives) because I have to be at Amarnath to “see” God or fulfil the final religious mission of my life. This especially, when my society needs their assistance much more than I do…when my country’s porous borders need to be guarded by them day and night, without the blinking of an eye…when and where I know I cannot practically help them in any way irrespective of nature’s whims.

This becomes crucial to consider that till date, we do not have a robust national defence strategy whether or not under a single command. How do we then quickly mobilize our Forces (on massive civilian duty) if there is an urgent demand on the borders ?

Therefore, it is my sincere request to aamjunta to consider such issues while opting for a pilgrimage. In this ultra-modern era, we are supposed to be aware of the climate, the routes, the political situation at a place, the possibility of such a journey, the probability of a disaster, the repercussions, etc. In a comparatively good situation, there may not be constraints. The pilgrimages shall be smooth. But thinking about the boiling situations in which we are caught, then at least, let us re-instate our Forces in an indirect way by choosing a safer path. It may be a charitable work or a visit to a holy shrine nearby.

Let us – keep it simple; focus on the Almighty and our spiritual quest; serve the society; strengthen our Motherland.

What are your views aamjunta ?

“Married and my Husband has no other wife living”: Bigamy in India!

While browsing through the Placement Blog, I came across Coal India Limited’s Management Trainee Joining Form. It is a 26-page document with so many blanks to fill in declarations, personal details and professional details, etc. But, what surprised me is the declaration that the new employee has to sign at the time of joining:

  • That I am married and have only one wife living.
  • That I am married and my husband has no other wife living.
CIL MT Joining Declaration

CIL MT Joining Declaration

I was wondering, how come the wife will declare that her husband has no more wives? Does that imply, that a female trainee can have more than one living husband? 🙂 Moreover, does she know every thing about her husband’s life and personal relationships? Why does the employer need to ask such kind of questions?, which has more to do with the personal life than the professional one. How does disclosure of marriage help in seeking better employees?

If this is the law of the land, that your husband should have only one living wife, then how come Chief Minister(s), Central and State Minister(s) have multiple living wives? Not only that, there are enough sitting MPs and MLAs, who have multiple living wives. Changing religion to have multiple wives is also seen these day. Even Celebrities and Film Stars too have multiple simultaneous relationships – legally and illegally. Is it a fashion meant only for people who can afford it?  Is it a necessity for power game? I am not going to write the huge list of people who have multiple (living) marriages here. This is because, I do not want to encroach some one’s private life and make that public. It is not a personal vendetta, rather an ideological battle.

There are couple of questions which came into my mind.

  1. If it is considered as a part of law under IPC under Hindu Marriage Law to have only one living wife, then what prevents the state machinery to block them from power? Is it not a double standard?
  2. How can people (netas/leaders) with multiple wives decide whether their followers will have one or more wives? I mean to say, that most of these people in power wield these laws meant for aamjunta, when they themselves break these laws.

Aamjunta, what do you think?

Note: I do not advocate the thought of Bigamy or polyandry.

%d bloggers like this: