India’s first transgender Sarpanch vows to turn her village into an ideal village

Written by Akbar Sheikh | Published on: October 24, 2017
A village in interior Maharashtra creates history


Gnyaneshwar Kamble with SabrangIndia correspondent Akbar Sheikh

For the first time in the country’s history a transgender person has been elected Sarpanch of a village. Tarangfal is the village from Malshiras taluka in Maharashtra’s Solapur district which has created history and is attracting a lot of media attention.

The election of Gnyaneshwar Kamble is being seen a cultural leap forward since transgender persons are generally denied dignity in our society and there is still a long road ahead in their battle for self-esteem and acceptance as equals in the social mainstream.

It is in this backdrop that the decision of the voters from a village in interior Maharashtra comes across as a courageous step towards justice.

Gnyaneshwar Kamble (who prefers the female gender) has thanked all concerned after her election. “I am grateful to this democracy and this constitution thanks to which today I being treated as a human being. I thank all the people of the village who have conceded to me my right, considered me qualified for the post. Normally, people promptly look the other way the moment they set eyes on us,” she told SabrangIndia.     
      
“Now that the people have reposed their faith in me, I will not disappoint them. I will ensure that work gets done and there is no corruption. I will do my best to transform my village into an ideal village,” she added.

Kamble recounted her life’s tortuous journey: “While growing up when I realised that I was not like other boys, they threatened me and then tried to reason with me. But there was no way to hide the truth. My family members felt ashamed of me. In disgrace I had to leave the village. I survived in a neighbouring village on alms collected in the name of goddess Yellamma. I spent 16 years of my life as a beggar. I have seen poverty from close quarters, I have seen what corruption does to people. Somehow, I gathered courage and returned to my village.”

“I used to feel terrible having to beg in order to survive. Whenever I approached any shop keeper or someone on the street, people would turn their faces away from me. I hated begging but what other option does society offer to a transgender person? I have always wished for the well-being of others. We are struggling for our basic human rights and the battle will continue till we succeed. I have laid a foundation and I now seek everyone’s co-operation and goodwill”.

Asked about her priorities as a Sarpanch, Kamble told SabrangIndia, “What would I do with money made through corruption? Who for? I’d rather set an example for others to follow.”
Pleased with her election, people in the area have been extending warm greetings to Kamble.

(Akbar Sheikh, a Marathi-speaking farmer, writer and a poet lives in a village in Solapur district).

(Translated from Hindi into English by SabrangIndia staff).