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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 11:44 GMT
Eunuchs boosted by voter disillusion
Eunuchs hold annual pageants
India's eunuchs have long lived on the fringes of society
By the BBC's Jyotsna Singh in Lucknow

Eighteen eunuchs are candidates in vital legislative elections in politically India's most important state, Uttar Pradesh.

Eunuchs are often dismissed in India as objects of curiosity and entertainment.

But when they make points about corruption and issues concerning the common man they win instant applause.

The emergence of eunuchs is seen as a growing indication of people's disillusionment with the political class

Eunuchs in India normally dress as women.

They are considered auspicious in traditional society, often arriving unannounced, in a group, on the doorstep of a house where a baby has been born.

They insist on blessing the child with their singing and dancing. Until given a token offering of food, clothes and money, they refuse to leave.

Role model

Eunuch Asha Devi is the mayor of the town of Gorakhpur.

I met him in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, where he came to support a fellow eunuch, Sri Devi, contesting the constituency of Sadar.

Shabnam Mausi
Shabnam Mausi - India's first eunuch assembly member

Having been elected to this prestigious post of mayor, Asha Devi is a role model for fellow eunuchs.

"We have no family to feed. Unlike our politicians we are not here to make money. We want to serve our people who feed us," Asha Devi tells voters.

The message is greeted with spontaneous applause from the crowd.

As she (Indians normally refer to eunuchs as 'she') goes on to highlight how politicians have let the voters down with their unfulfilled promises, the crowd listens with rapt attention.

Speaking the truth

Twenty-six year old Ayaz has travelled nearly two kilometres to hear the eunuchs.

"They are speaking the truth. Our politicians beg us for votes during elections and don't show up after that. They are not bothered about the people. Why should we vote for them?," Ayaz asks.

Eunuchs have long been marginalised in Indian society
Eunuchs are beginning to enter fashion and politics

It is heartening for the eunuchs whose presence in public places usually provokes ridicule.

Eunuchs are often referred to by the pejorative word hizra which denotes incompetence and impotence.

But Vijay Soni, who runs a Lucknow tea shop, says eunuchs are sincere and are needed to run the administration.

There may not be many yet who support the eunuchs but a large number of people share the disenchantment pointed out by these eunuchs.

Political representation has encouraged these eunuchs to demand a role in policy making.

That bore fruit two years ago when Shabnam Mausi became the first eunuch to be elected to a state assembly, in her case in Madhya Pradesh.

Analysts view their emergence as a growing indication of people's disillusionment with the political class.

See also:

14 Jan 01 | South Asia
Eunuchs to enter national politics
06 Mar 00 | South Asia
Eunuch MP takes seat
09 Mar 01 | Media reports
India stages Ms World for eunuchs
14 Sep 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
The hijras' blessing
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