Madhu Bai Kinnar

India’s First Transgender Mayor

By Google Arts & Culture

Illustrations by Aditya Raj

Madhu Bai Kinnar: First Transgender Mayor India by Aditya Raj

On January 4, 2015, Madhu Bai Kinnar made history when she became India’s first transgender Mayor in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh Municipal Corporation. The odds were always going to be against her, but people’s mandate went in favor of Madhu

Madhu’s victory is path-breaking on all counts. Not only did she manage to overcome many barriers on her way to the seat, but she did it through a scrappy campaign that stayed within campaign finance limits, spending barely Rs. 60,000-70,000 of her own money. In a 10-day election campaign, Madhu walked door-to-door with her friends, telling people about her ambitions for the city, and people listened. 

As she says, “it was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time, and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner”.

Madhu Bai Kinnar: First Transgender Mayor India by Aditya Raj

The transgender community in India has historically faced many-layered and overlapping exclusions. In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized transgender people as the legal third gender and this landmark judgment changed the lives of Madu and many others.  

The judgment allowed her to contest elections, a right the transgender community did not previously have. When Madhu contested and won, she also made a difference in the life of the LGBTQ community, bringing them further visibility and offering them a stronger voice.

However, politics wasn’t necessarily something she had planned to enter. She chanced upon a form inviting applications for the Mayor’s office when she was once at the Municipality office for her weekly collections. Encouraged by her well-wishers to give herself a chance, she went all in.

Madhu Bai Kinnar: First Transgender Mayor of India by Aditya Raj

Madhu’s election agendas were manifold. She wanted to put an end to transgenders begging and busking in trains, ensure ration cards were issued, and work for the poor and for the transgender community equally. 

It was her clarity of thought that connected well with the people who, much like her, were tired of political inaction and yearned for change. Improving sanitation facilities in Raigarh was part of her core agenda and she delivered.

For this, she and her team would go on rounds every morning, starting as early as 7 a.m., and urge city workers to fix clogged wells, pipes, and gutters. As a result of this hard work, in 2019, Raigarh won the Swachhata Excellence Award—this is how clean the city had become.

Born Naresh Chauhan in Raigarh, Madhu is a name she chose for herself. Belonging to the Dalit community, Madhu grew up in poverty. She dropped out of school in her teen years and her family expelled her for not conforming to gender norms. She moved to live with the transgender community in the city and formed a new, supportive family that accepted her for who she was. Around this time, she started picking up small occupations like performing street plays, and even performing in trains for money.

Madhu Bai Kinnar: First Transgender Mayor of India by Aditya Raj

When she assumed responsibility as Mayor, she set another precedent by rejecting the big office that the Mayor-elect is supposed to occupy. She wanted to be accessible to people, so their grievances reached her first-hand. 

It’s why she built an open cabin where people could approach her directly. She even refused to travel in the state-provided car and instead traveled in an auto. 

Madhu Bai Kinnar: First Transgender Mayor of India by Aditya Raj

Madhu’s is an incomparable journey. She always did things her own way and did them well. From a dancer in trains to the first citizen of the city, Madhu Bai Kinnar’s story was written in stars. 

Credits: Story

Illustrations by Aditya Raj

Credits: All media
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