City activists take plunge into politics with BBMP polls

http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/1851-praja-rajakiya-vedike-bbmp-elections-candidates

This council election will see Veena, a transsexual, and Anil, a former teacher, contesting from Okalipuram (Ward 196) and Hebbal (Ward 21) respectively. Both represent citizen group Praja Rajakiya Vedike.

By Vaishnavi Vittal
15 Mar 2010, Citizen Matters

In what is their first step towards mainstream politics in Bangalore, a group of city-based activists have come together for the BBMP council elections by floating two independent candidates. These activists have formed a group called the Praja Rajakiya Vedike, which will support the candidates in these elections.

Says Elavarthi Manohar, one of the members of this group, “We have all fought with regard to human rights, women’s rights, sexuality minority rights. We wanted to bring about a change. So we all got together”. Manohar is also the founder of Sangama, a sexuality minorities human rights organisation for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference.

Over the last two years, these activists held meetings and consultations to understand the work and agendas of various political parties in the state. “Big parties are not transparent. Small parties work only during elections”, says Manohar. This was when they decided to form their own political party to create a conducive environment wherein every stakeholder would be equally respected irrespective of their caste, colour or creed. That’s how Praja Rajakiya Vedike came to be formed with about 20 to 30 core members and about 200 supporters. It is however not yet a political party.

For the upcoming elections, two candidates – Veena S, the first transsexual in south India to contest in an election and A Derick Anil, a former teacher and activist – will contest from Okalipuram (Ward 196) and Hebbal (Ward 21) respectively. The duo filed their nomination papers today.

South India’s first hijra contesting from Bangalore’s Okalipuram

Thirty-four year old Veena who works for Dalit rights, sexual minorities, sex workers, domestic workers and garment factory workers, says she decided to contest in the polls as she had always wanted to get into politics.

Veena, contesting bbmp elections

Veena, a transsexual, will contest from Ward 196. If elected, she says she will ensure that the voice of the people will be heard. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Incidentally, Veena is also the first transsexual in South India who will be contesting in an election.

Hailing from a poor Dalit family, Veena was born and brought up in Okalipuram. She has studied upto 10th standard. From a young age, when she was a boy, she always knew she was different. “I didn’t like being a male”, she says. Tortured and teased by both friends and family, she eventualy got herself castrated and underwent a sex change operation. Initially her parents and four siblings treated her as an outcaste. Today, however, she is the sole bread-winner of the family.

“I’m proud to be a woman today”, she says proudly. Veena doesn’t speak English fluently but understands the language. She speaks Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

Veena has previously worked with Sangama in the area of HIV-AIDS. She has also worked as Treasurer at Samara, a community organisation of sexual minorities and sexworkers. She recently resigned from this job as she now works full time for Praja Rajakiya Vedike. She is also the Vice President of the Karnataka Sex Workers Union, member of Dalit Mahila Horata Koota and is the President of an Anekal-based group called Sanchaya Nele that works with Dalit women.

For the BBMP elections, Veena says there are several problems in her ward that she is looking to start working on. She says the Corporation school in the area is being closed because of the Metro Rail construction. “Where will the children go to study? I want to fight this,” she says, adding that she also wants to build toilets, a playground, library and proper anganwadis.

Her anger and frustration towards the ruling government is clear when she says, “They want to make green city, silicon city and spend crores on painting the walls. Couldn’t they give this money to the poor?”

Having lived in a low income neighbourhood (commonly known as a slum) herself, Veena says she wants to empower the people of the ward so that their voices are heard.

Even as this is her first election, Veena is confident of winning this time. “Everyone has been supporting me – lawyers, media and others. This has given me the courage to fight. I won’t stop”.

Though Veena belongs to the sexuality minority community and is the first transsexual to contest in an election in Bangalore, her contesting in the election has more to do with her work as an activist than her sexuality. “I don’t think me being a hijra is going to affect votes or the elections”. But she also hopes that more people like her come out and contest in elections next time round. “Things are not like before. Today, when you tell people something, they listen. It gets them thinking.”

Former teacher and PT instructor contesting from Hebbal ward

Taking the plunge along with Veena, is her friend and colleague A Derick Anil, who is contesting from Hebbal.

This former English teacher and physical education instructer, has been actively involved in activism from a young age. Anil has been involved with issues related to consumers, environment, women, agriculture, tribals, Nethravati river diversion and beedi workers. He has previously worked with the Nagarika Seva trust, Society for People and Action for Development, and Centre for Research on Environment, Development Innovations, Technology & Trade (CREDITTe), mostly in the area of research. Anil has a masters degree in sociology.

Anil contesting elections

Anil, who is contesting from Hebbal, wants to make it a model ward. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

He now works independently and is working with regard to Right to Information (RTI), water and sanitation issues.

Ask him why he decided to contest in the elections now and the 37-year-old says, “In my entire activism life, I realised that the decision making body is the government. Many things are promised. Very little is done. Out of what little is done, few lobbies come and hijack that also. That made us think of alternatives”. Politics was one of them, for Anil and his activist friends.

As a child, Anil says he harboured the dream to become the Chief Minister one day! “But that was emotional. I was later averse to politics”. It was in 2007 when he started giving it a serious thought and eventually decided to dive in.

About his ward Hebbal, he says he would like concentrate on the issues of water, waste, sanitation and roads. After elections are over he plans to get information through RTI on all the developmental work that has been carried out in Hebbal in the last three years.

Anil wants to make Hebbal a model ward and envisages that a time should arrive when should not have to knock on the door of an elected representative. “Everything should be available to everyone. There should be equitable distribution”.

He feels that his experience as an activist and involvement in various issues makes him an ideal candidate to win.

“We will ask people for Re 1 and one vote”

Even as both Veena and Anil are using these elections to gain experience in electoral politics, they are working strategically to win. “Opponents are working with money, muscle and liquor. When we go on our door-to-door campaign, we will ask people for one rupee and one vote”, says Veena. They are using this strategy to also mobilise funds for their campaign. Veena and Anil together are looking to spend not more than Rs 4 lakhs on the elections. They are looking for funds from friends, relatives and supporters.

Praja Rajakiya Vedike will use banners and pamphlets to promote their candidates and go around in autos with loudspeakers.

Mainstream parties versus independent candidates

As Manohar explains, the Vedike’s main aim is to bring about a clean, efficient and transparent governance process. They are clear when they say that they are not just a social movement.

Siddharth Narrain, a lawyer with Alternative Law Forum or ALF, feels that this is an indication of the current scenario of politics. “It brings in a different perspective. Both these candidates are raising broader issues. No mainstream politician will focus on the harassment that is meted out to hijras”, he says. ALF is a Bangalore-based lawyers’ collective and has worked with regard to sexual minorities’ rights.

Narrain feels that independent candidates like Veena and Anil have better chances of winning in these local elections. “If they win, it’s a sign that people are fed up with mainstream political parties”.

But those in mainstream politics themselves do not think much of these independent candidates contesting in the elections. BJP MLA (Yeshwanthpur) Shobha Karandlaje feels that these candidates should instead support mainsteam parties like the BJP. “Will they win as independents? It’s not possible when we are working in full force”, she says.

Shobha adds that she herself has worked on issues concerning sexual minorities and will continue to do so.

Congress MLA (Mahalakshmi Layout) Narendra Babu feels that as long as you are committed to serving the public, you can contest. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You need to be service-minded”, he says, adding as an after-thought, “It’ll be better if they contest as a party candidate.”

Meanwhile, for Praja Rajakiya Vedike the BBMP election is the first step in their entry into politics. They are looking to eventually form a political party that respects diversity, equality, non-violence and individual freedom. For now, their eyes are set on winning the city council elections.

15 Mar 2010

Vaishnavi Vittal is a staff journalist with Citizen Matters.

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Veena files her nomination papers for BBMP election

Veena, the transsexual woman candidate of Praja Rajakiya Vedike in BBMP elections filed her nomination papers yesterday (15 Mach 2010) at the Goods Shed Road office of the BBMP.

I am very happy that media was there in full strength. Lets hope that this support will put pressure on the government officials to act in a fair manner and stop discrimination against Veena. Most of you are aware that Veena has to wait for more than 8 hours to obtain her caste certificate, that too after more than 50 human rights activists protesting at the Tahasildar’s office and media covering the protests. It is shameful that a transsexual person has to spend 8 hours to time to get a certificate that others obtain in 1 hour. And the cerificate Veena wanted is about her ‘caste’ and not ‘gender’.

I hope she Veena can get through the next hurdle on 17th March 2010, when her poll application will be scrutinized by the poll officials.

Not just your vote, but also Re 1, please – Veena, a transsexual woman contesting Bangalore City Elections

Not just your vote, but also Re 1, please (The New Indian Express)

Y Maheswara Reddy

First Published : 13 Mar 2010 07:05:59 AM IST

BANGALORE: If all goes well, Veena S will be the first transgender in Karnataka to contest an election. Veena is all set to contest the election to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) from Okalipuram ward (SC Woman Reserved).

Veena wanted to file her nomination papers on Friday but could not do so due to the delay in getting the caste certificate from tahsildar. “He has tried to avoid giving the certificate to me on one or the other pretext. Finally, he gave it to me when activists of Praja Rajakeeya Vedike gathered at the tahsildar’s Office,’’ says Veena.

Veena says that nowadays people get into politics with a business- like approach. “Spending money in an election for them is like investing money.” She feels that upon getting elected, they try to maximise their return on investment through corruption.

“Their negligence towards welfare of people made me to contest the election,’’ she says.

As for overcoming her financial constraints, she says her familiarity in the area and her involvement with various social organisations will come to her rescue. “I will visit each and every house not only to seek votes but also to beg Re 1 from each voter,” she says. “I have to depend on donations since I have no money.” She says that win or loss in the election notwithstanding, she will work sincerely for the welfare of people in Okalipuram.

She says she will ensure that BBMP implements the schemes for the welfare of sexual minorities.

“BBMP officials did not utilise Rs 50 lakh allotted in the last budget for welfare of sexual minorities and sex workers. If I get elected, I want to utilise the funds given for them,” she added

Vacancies in Samara (Bangalore), a sexual minority organization adrressing HIV-AIDS and human rights issues

Samara Logo


Samara, a community organization of sexual minorities and sexworkers in Karnataka is recruiting people at senior level. It is a good opportunity for people committed to sexual minority and sexworker human rights issues. Here is Samara’s AD:

———————

Vacancies in a HIV Prevention Project  (Bangalore City)


Samara, a community organisation of sexual minorities and sexworkers, is implementing a focused HIV-AIDS prevention project among sexual minorities in Bangalore City. The main goal of the project is to build an effective, result based and sustainable model for HIV prevention with men who have sex with men and transgenders.


Project Manager (1 post)


Key Roles and Responsibilities


· Managing the implementation of all project activities

· Supporting and handholding the staff

· Monitoring the project outputs and reporting on results, including sending regular reports to the funding agency

· Responsible for staff recruitment, induction and capacity building

· Assist Project Direction Team in conducting regular review and planning meetings with staff

· Establish linkages with other organizations for various purposes


Qualifications and Skills Specification

· Minimum 3 years of experience, preferably in HIV-AIDS Prevention Projects

· Ability to manage high calibre/high performing teams

· Fluency in Kannada and English


Organizational Development Coordinator (1 post)


Key Roles and Responsibilities


· Provide day today hand holding support to the organization

· Facilitate and organise capacity building workshops

· Give inputs for proper governance of the organisation

· Support and ensure proper project implementation

· Provide strategies for effective community mobilisation and collectivisation.

· Build and maintain alliances with other organisations and individuals

· Liaison with the funding agencies for effective program implementation


Qualifications and Skills Specification

  • Minimum 4-5 years of experience, with the ability to provide strategic leadership oversight to the organizational design, management and implementation
  • Ability to manage high calibre/high performing teams
  • Excellent relationship management skills; with the ability to network
  • Fluency in Kannada and English
  • Excellent computer skills

Interested candidates can send in their CV along with three references to samaraban@gmail.com before 30th September 2009. Samara can be contacted by phone at (080) 22113795.


Samara is an equal-opportunity employer and encourages PLHA (People Living with HIV/AIDS), sexuality minorities, women, disabled people, dalits, adivasis, religious minorities, and people from other marginalized populations to apply for the above mentioned vacancies.

Regards

Yogesh
Programme Coordinator- Services
———–

On ‘Religion, Inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities’ Discussion, Bangalore, 24th AUG 09

Many people (including myself) spoke at the discussion organized by Sangama and Aneka with religious leaders on “Religion, Inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities” in NGO hall, Bangalore on 24th August 2009 including:

Swami Agnivesh (Bandhua Mukti Morcha and Arya Samaj)

Dr. Asgar Ali Engineer (Islamic Scholar, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism)

Rev. K. C Abraham (Theologian, Church of South India)

Mr. Christopher Rajkumar (Commission on Justice, Peace, Creation – National Council of Churches in India)

Mr. Dinesh Ghodke (World Alliance for Youth Empowerment, Art of Living)

Guruji Vinay Vinekar (Institute of Universal Consciousness)

Dr. Saleem Kidwai, medieval historian, translator, writer and editor of Same-sex love in India

Ms. Mansi Meera Baindur (Ecofeminist and Philosopher, National Institute of Advanced Studies)

Ms. Revathi, writer and sexual minority activist

Ms. Abhinaya, Film Actress

I represented Sangama and Aneka as their co-director and spoke about the situation of sexual minorities in the society and how they also get rejected by different religious spaces, institutions and leaders. This program was focused on how religions could be more inclusive.

Swami Agnivesh stated that he was one of the first people who signed the petition against section 377 of the Indian penal Code. He said god could be realized in all human beings and sexual minorities too are human. He said that when he welcomed the Delhi high court judgment some other religious leaders attacked his house and he said if him supporting sexual minorities received this response what could be the situation of sexual minorities.

Film actress Abhinaya stated that she supports the cause of sexual minorities.

Rev K.C. Abraham said that society and religions should be open to all people without discrimination. He appealed to sexual minorities to take forward their struggle for justice.

Ms. Revathi from Sangama spoke about how in Hijra culture includes many aspects of Hinduism and Islam.

Swami Dinesh said that IPC section 377 was like a fossil and was extremely discriminatory. He conveyed the message of love and support from his Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Swami Vinay Vinekar said that religion is not a religion if it teaches hate. All religions will accept people without discrimination.

Dr. Christopher Rajkumar said that he was impressed by reading the book of an Aravani Vidya and also said that if religions preach discrimination they are not religions at all. He said that there is a need for a campaign to become human and to remain human.

Ms. Mansi Meera Baindur said even religions have been changing and patriarchy has taken over the religion too, which has led into problems.

The session was chaired by Mr. David Selva Raj from Visthar.

Here are the links for some media coverage:

DNA: Agnivesh backs sexual minorities

HINDU: Centre urged not to fight Section 377 ruling

MID-DAY: ‘Be more human’

Discussion: Religion, inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities, Bangalore, 24 Aug 09

Sangama and Aneka

invite you to a discussion on

“Religion, inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities”

on 24th August 2009, Monday from 2 PM to 6 PM


at the NGO Hall, Cubbon Park, Opposite Vikasa Soudha, Bangalore – 560001. Phone: 080 22354784

Speakers include:

Swami Agnivesh

Guruji Vinaykar

Dr. Asgar Ali Engineer

Dr. Saleem Kidwai

Mr. Christopher Rajkumar

Fr. K. C. Abraham

Mr. David Selvaraj and

Ms. Manasi  Baindur

Issues of sexuality and gender are hotly contested in both religious communities and national cultures around the world. Further when the question relates to homosexuality and  transgenderism they invoke sharper responses, from ideas that this these are sinful, shameful, perversion and deserving of the highest punishment and wrath of god; to ambiguity and limited tolerance and even acceptance.

In the wake of the judgement on IPC section 377 by the Delhi High Court, that decriminalises homosexuality many religious bodies have condemned the judgement arguing that it was against religion, immoral and even against Indian culture. These people have been quoted repeatedly by the media and have also been invited to speak at various fora on these issues. This emphasises the notion that religious traditions are inherently conservative or even reactionary in their  commitments to powerful patriarchal and pronatalist (encouraging child bearing) sexual norms and gender categories.

However there have also been voices that spoke differently and adopted a more nuanced stand. These however have got scant attention. It is these voices that Sangama and Aneka is seeking to bring together to illustrate the diverse, complex and at times even contradictory traditions and practices that come under the broad rubric of “religion”. There are also sexual minorities who are people of faith; embracing both religion and their sexuality with joy  who are again invisible in the discourse. The basic tenets of all religions that are love and compassion; and recognizing the divine in all beings. This then makes the attitude of hate and violence inadmissible.

Religions have also been influenced by strong movements for rights and have changed their position on for example issues related to women. The texts and practices are constantly being reinterpreted by people coming from other perspectives and they have transformed religion. The time is now ripe for such an engagement between religion and issues of sexual minorities. We invite all of you to come and be part of this discussion.

The Right that Dares to Speak its Name: A Primer on the Naz Foundation Judgment

http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com/2009/08/right-that-dares-to-speak-its-name.html


The Right that Dares to Speak its Name: A Primer on the Naz Foundation Judgment


Dear All

Given the importance of the Naz Foundation decision, and despite the fact that it is an excellently written judgment, we recognize that a 105 pages can be a challenge for many people. We were therefore prompted to bring out an analytical primer which could serve as a guide through the intricacies of the judgment.

We are happy to announce the publication of a new primer on the judgment. “The Right that Dares to speak its Name” has been put together by Arvind Narrain and Marcus Eldridge. The Primer contains a schematic guide highlighting the key aspects of the judgment with a commentary. It then examines the background and finally contains a few commentaries that came out after the judgment. The Primer is 140 pages and is priced at Rs. 50. Copies are available at ALF

For more details and to download a copy please visit this site.

Table Of Contents:

Introduction

Schematic Guide: Naz Foundation v. Union of India

* The Law
* The Parties
* The Bench
* The Rationale
* Conclusion
* Basis of Ruling
* Territorial Applicability of the judgment


Background: The Naz Judgment

Outline of Arguments on behalf of Voices against 377

Edited Transcripts of the final arguments before the Delhi High Court

Commentaries

* On Freedom’s avenue, Gautam Bhan
* Reforming Macaulay, Kajal Bharadwaj
* India: From ‘perversion’ to right to life with dignity, Kalpana Kannabiran
* Who’s afraid of Homosexuality, Ram Jethmalani
* Striving for magic in the city of words, Lawrence Liang and Siddarth Narrain
* Its about all of us , Prathap Bhanu Mehta
* Good for all minorities, Tarunabh Khaitan
* Navigating the Noteworthy and the Nebulous in Naz Foundation, Vikram Raghavan
* Keeping Religion out of the Gay debate, Siddharth Bhatia

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