'Joblessness is the real terrorism'

Updated: May 09, 2019, 07:45 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Maa Bhawani, a kinnar, is fighting on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket to correct the present for a better future

(From left) Maa Bhawani with supporters while campaigning. Pic/Dharmendra Jore
(From left) Maa Bhawani with supporters while campaigning. Pic/Dharmendra Jore

Allahabad: Kinnars or hijras as they are known more popularly, have been making a splash in the sangam city of Allahabad (renamed Prayagraj). Bhawani Nath Valmiki aka Maa Bhawani is a kinnar. Born a beautiful child in a poverty struck dalit family, a close relative sexually assaulted her at 11. As the glances and touches became unbearable, she chose to run away from her Delhi home to join a kinnar jamat (transgender community). Years later, Bhawani would be part of LGBT folklore by leading a movement that got the transgender community equal social and legal status.

Bhawani carved a niche for herself on the religious front by being one of the founders of the Kinnar Akhara which made its presence felt in this year's Kumbh at Prayagraj, from where she is now fighting a Lok Sabha poll against the mighty people. She represents the Aam Aadmi Party.

Low on resources but high on fighting spirit, we find her campaigning in the villages in Meja tehsil, some 70km from Prayagraj (Allahabad). As her convoy reaches Chandi, about a hundred men, women and children gather near a grocery shop. Bhawani asks voters to bolster the Sanatan dharma and says that she is there to correct the present, which should lead to a better future, if she wins.

mid-day makes Bhawani talk. Here are excerpts.

What made you contest the polls?
I am determined to speak against injustice and always wanted to contest polls. I chose Prayagraj, my karmabhumi. I could have chosen a seat reserved for the backward classes, but I chose a general seat. I approached many parties but they didn't see me as prospective enough. But Aam Aadmi Party's UP in-charge, Sanjay Singh, and party Chief Anil Kejriwal endorsed my resolve to take on the might of the BJP, SP-BSP gathbandhan and Congress. This fight is for society, not for the kinnars, because I have already won the battle for my community's legal rights. The human is he/she who fights for his/her own rights. And then we won the dharma ki ladai as well. Our Kinnar Akhara got recognition as one of the main parts of Hindu Sanatan dharma. I was made the Mahamandleshwar of Kinnar Akhara's northern sector (Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Lakshmi Narayanan Tripathi is the chief of the akhara). My struggle and success proves that the gender does not define one's insaniyat (humanity). I may be a transgender, a hijra, but I too am part of society that is still far from development. Uttar Pradesh has given several prime ministers. Allahabad is a seat of a mahanayak. And yet, what is the condition of the state? I saw a ray of hope in taking up politics. I thought of going to the Parliament to make an impact. I hope the people understand my sentiment.

How far will you go in this contest? You are pitted against all odds.
I am not a businessman like them (other politicians). They haven't come here (in the village), but I am here because these are all my people. I wanted to show them the truth and tell them what they really need. The people need jobs, pure drinking water, healthcare, schools, roads and what not. This is the present, not future. I want to correct the present. For me, today is my dream. Forget the villages. Take up Allahabad which they wanted to turn into a smart city. Hui hai? (Has that happened?) They continue to promise a bright future even after failing to make the current situation slightly better. Isn't it sham politics?

What is your agenda? Development or dharma?
I have been associated with dharma for long and am a Hindu spiritual leader, but I had been to the Haj as well (her supporter told us she had converted to Islam a decade ago, but returned to the Hindu fold). I'm truly a secular human who wants everyone to benefit from development. A combination of insaniyat (humanity) and development will protect the country. They talk of Hindu-Muslim, but I don't. No child becomes a Hindu or Muslim when in my lap. The child gets religion when it goes into your lap. I have been telling the people that we have an ammunition of education but jobless youth. To me, joblessness is the real terrorism.

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