Dnyaneshwar Kamble, 40, elected Tuesday as Maharashtra’s first ever transgender sarpanch, expresses sadness about the attitude of people towards the community. “We are always looked down upon as inferior human beings. People run away when we approach them… they try to avoid us in all possible ways,” says Kamble.
Kamble, locally known as Mauli, was declared elected in the gram panchayat elections in Tarangfal village of Solapur, one of 4,000 panchayats went to polls Monday.
It is being described as the first direct one to the post in Maharashtra under the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act of 1958. Till date, the sarpanch had been elected from among elected representatives.
Tarangfal has a population of 1,800 with 1,600 voters. Kamble, who contested on a BJP ticket, polled 868 votes to defeat NCP rival Jaysingh Salve by 167. The village has three wards and Kamble had to get votes from all three wards, and did. The victory was followed by celebrations by party workers who threw gulal in the air, burst crackers and distributed sweets.
“This is what I had been waiting for… I wish everyone from our community were treated that way,” says Kamble, adding the transgender community needs recognition and honour. “We want to be in the mainstream public and not on the sidelines as shunned human beings. We are a community that has a number of well-educated people. But education has not given us respect in the society. We want respect and to be treated on par with other citizens… That I defeated a person who is a not a transgender shows people love me.” Kamble is a class VII dropout. “I regret not having completed my education. I am going to spread the message among parents to educate their children up to graduation at least,” Kamble says..
On Kamble’s agenda is lok seva and gram seva. Villagers in the area continue to defecate in the open, Kamble says. My priority will include building toilets and stopping open defecation.”