Children of Iravan

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Yesterday, near Victoria Memorial, our car stopped at a red light. It was approached by a eunuch. We parted with a ten and preserved our peace.

Today, while Googling Devala Devi  to help me keep up with my mother discussing the history of medieval Delhi, I found that Khusro Khan, the maverick, therefore short term ruler of Delhi Sultanate at the death of Alauddin Khilji’s  son Mubarak, may have been a ‘shemale’.

Of course, that happened after Malik Kafur  had already shown the world who actually had bigger balls, him or Alauddin Khilji.

From acknowledged and accepted Vedic ‘Tritiyaprakriti’  to adored and richly adorned ‘Ghilman’  and ‘Mamalik’  of the Sultanate to present day despised and disparaged ‘Hijra’. Whose fall from grace is it actually? The community’s or the other sexes’ perspectives?

Before you stop reading further, having correctly guessed by now that this piece is one of those pro-people articles with an agenda of advocating equal rights, let me share with you what I learnt from my impromptu history lesson today. After all, everybody loves a good story, especially one with kings and queens and sex slaves in it.

It so happens that a young lad with charming features was enslaved by the Muslim conquerors of Patan  (in present day Gujarat) c. 1297, and presented to Sultan Alauddin Khilji,  after being converted to Islam and named Hasan. Inside the royal household, Hasan became a favoruite of Mubarak,  Alauddin’s  son, who subsequently conferred upon his sex slave and confidante, the title of Khusro Khan,  and entrusted him with military missions and policies pertaining to administration. It is said that Khusro Khan was instrumental in the assassination of Alauddin Khilji  and he did kill Mubarak Shah,  thereby bringing an end to the Khilji  dynasty. Khusro Khan  did so with the aid of Queen Devala Devi,  another enslaved Hindu princess, forcibly betrothed, first to Alauddin’s elder son Khizr Khan and then included in Mubarak Shah’s harem when the later killed his elder brother.

The coup that Khusro Khan  and Devala Devi  staged did not just bring about the downfall of the Khilji  dynasty, but also, albeit briefly, restored Hindu rule in Delhi, because soon after claiming the throne, Khusro Khan  is said to have made a declaration to the effect of him renouncing the religion forced upon him (Islam) and him assuming the rule of India as a Hindu ruler with Devala Devi  as his wife and also a reconvert to Hinduism.

Khusro Khan is known to have assumed the title of Nasiruddin  which means ‘defender of the faith’. It is strange that he would assume such a title right after publicly renouncing the faith; however, his actions were indeed in keeping with his declaration. Khusro Khan  or Sultan Nasiruddin  is remembered for his policy of religious tolerance and liberal administrative policies. He revoked several taxes which at the time were a burden for his people, including the notorious Jaziya  levied on Hindus. He is known to have advocated a more respectful attitude towards women and a more benignant treatment of slaves. It is to be noted that the sources of most of these information are the chronicles of Muslim scholars, chiefly of Muhammad Qasim Farishta  (from his Tareekh-e-Farishtah) and Ziauddin Barani,  both of whom held a critiquing view of a Kafir  ruler, a reconvert, who, at least to Farishta, ‘was a shemale’. Hence we may safely assume that many of Khusro Khan’s  virtues were deliberately overlooked by these scholars.

It may also have been that Khusro Khan  was not a ‘shemale’ contrary to Farishta’s  claims (which he did perhaps out of malice) and that the love story involving him and Devala Devi  may have been true, given that he married her when he became king. If that was indeed the case, it makes him an even more extraordinary character, for he ordered sex slaves to be treated with respect and dignity, and almost half of the sex slaves at that time were castrated males or naturally born members of the third sex. So, through his own life or through his policies, Khusro Khan,  the once Delhi Sultan, consolidated the position of the third sex in the society, and showed the world that people, who are neither male, nor female, are still humans, with a feeling, beating heart and a functioning brain that, when harnessed and channeled well can wield a sword and a scepter and rule a nation with equanimity and respect for civil liberties.

Essentially, all the things one would expect from a ‘normal’ male Sultan. Or a biologically functioning Sultana.

I am not going to elaborate the tales of the various expeditions and exploits of Malik Kafur. He brought back to Alauddin Khilji,  along with a rich booty from his expeditions down South, the famous Koh-i-Noor ; he was a eunuch, castrated on orders of Alauddin Khilji.

Seven hundred years on, in trains, on sidewalks, hands that once made and undid reigns, clap for a tenner.

This is a case of reverse social evolution. People were being born with non-functional reproductive parts before as they still do today. But, while previously, ‘normal’ people had empathy, its absence today is becoming manifest.

The glaring absence of the sexual minorities in educational institutions, government employment and social scene in general is all the proof you need. In these seven hundred years of progress along the path of history, we have conveniently swept them under the carpet out of sight, only to resurface at our beck and call to, ironically enough, ‘bless’ us or shower us with ‘luck’ at ceremonies and serve our sexual perversions.

Makes one wonder, who are the real freaks?

People have developmental disorders of all the sorts all over the world. Non-functioning heart valves, absent eye sight, deformed spinal cord, bum kidney, punctured lungs ; the stuff that fill the pages of the annals of medical history. Some of these ‘defects’ can be seen by plain eyes, some only through proper instruments. But never are these birth defects discriminated against. Only when the defect impairs reproduction, are red flags raised. Only then is the ‘natural order’ threatened and the society bares tooth and nails to defend it.

It is understandable, when looked at from a 13th century point of view. 21st century is birthing clone animals. Doesn’t the outlook now appear terribly prehistoric?

However, I am yet to encounter a teacher, a friend, a doctor, even an office clerk who belongs to the third sex community.

Does responsibly assuming any of the above roles depend on the presence of functioning genitalia?

If the right balance of intelligence, skills, empathy and understanding is the key to becoming a successful professional and a social person, why do we in India deny the right of sexual minorities to aspire to become such persons?

What gives us, the mainstream sexes, the right to generalize when it comes to the ideals and morals of the third sex? The popular opinion is they are baby stealers, evil incarnates, sexual predators. Like the positions of honour and respect, these deplorable actions and attributes too don’t require the stamp of the genitalia. People with functioning genitals too can be baby stealers, evil incarnates and sexual predators ; in fact men with functional genitals are the worst sexual predators in the history of humans, if they choose to be. Yet they are not discriminated against, they seldom face social ostracizing, they seldom stir repugnant alarm, evoked, perhaps, not even by patients with deadly contagion.

The provision of entering T (for Transgender) during registration for the Aadhar card as introduced by the government of India was a laudable step in legalizing the rights and status of the third sex community in our country. But sadly enough, GoI took away more from the community than it gave to it through the Aadhar card facility, when the SC re-criminalized section 377 of the IPC in December, 2013. Back to the shadows, once again, for the community. And, as I heard the other day in a popular television show aiming to change the outlook of our society, ‘it is but demons that can come out of shadows, and not angels’. If they are demons, we have created their hell.

The shadow in which the third sex community stands in today is the shadow cast by the other two sexes. By our attitudes, our bias, our intolerance, our dogmatism, our absolute reluctance to look past the surface. And, above all, our fear; a fear that has been genetically handed down through ages due to a lack of understanding of the rationale behind what stands apart from the norm. So, basically it is the mainstream education that is to be blamed for this despair that the third sex community is in. And I was shown by a teacher how right education can dispel that shadow.

During an educational excursion that we had to go on as a requirement for grades in our M.Sc examination, I had the rare opportunity to see how empathy and education are the keys to solving all our social troubles. We were in a train ; all my friends were frolicking about in a compartment while I was having grave discussions with our university professor, who was our chaperon on the tour, in the adjacent compartment. A group of eunuchs boarded the train and came clapping through the compartments demanding and extorting money, singing obscenities, as we expect them to do, and probably which enables easy money collection. One person entered our compartment and demanded money from Sir. I was mortified with embarrassment, in keeping with my conservative upbringing, and I assumed Sir would be terse and disdainfully dismissive, like all my other male acquaintances, when faced with a similar situation. But Sir surprised me. He took out his wallet, handed over a hundred rupee note and then, amazing me even further, folded his hands and requested the person not to bother his students in the next few compartments for money, all the while referring to the person as ‘Didi’.  The eunuch was equally shocked at receiving such respectful treatment and slightly embarrassed, she left the compartment after a hasty ‘namaskar’, back the way she had come, without uttering a single word.

Through insight and empathy Sir had done two good deeds that day. He had shown me what education really means and should achieve, a lesson that has left its indelible mark upon me, to stay with me till the end of my days ; he had also made the eunuch aware of the dignity she deserved, her rights due to her from her fellow human beings.

So it bothered me when yesterday I could only give the eunuch near Victoria Memorial a ten rupee note. I want to lend my voice in support of her demand for equal rights. Perhaps the great emancipator of women and the oppressed classes, the great equalizer and champion of human dignity is waiting to spring forth from the third sex community. I want to lend my support to hasten his/her arrival.

Manjishtha

21.3.14

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Note: I don’t like using the word ‘Hijra’, probably because it is always followed with ridicule when mentioned by the mainstream sexes. I have used the word eunuch in lieu of the word Hijra where ever I could but I am aware that the third sex community doesn’t relate to the term and I apologize for that. It was done for literary purposes.

References: All the data mentioned above may be accessed online from the following sites (listed in no specific order).

  1. http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=783
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khusro_Khan
  3. http://kalchiron.blogspot.in/2007/03/memorable-love-story-of-khushro-khan.html
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malik_Kafur
  5. http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/blog/transgenders-hijras-and-gender-non-conforming-persons-india-opportunity-legal-equality
  6. http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2008/05/hijras-indian-changing-rights
  7. http://indiahivaidsalliance.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/candidly-transgender-government-of-india-officially-recognises-third-gender/

 Image courtesy:

http://www.shutterstock.com

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