'I’ll be there for people’: Trans person Devika on winning Karnataka panchayat polls

Forty-six-year-old Devika is among the two transgender persons who have been elected in the Karnataka Gram Panchayat elections 2020.
Devika Akka
Devika Akka
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Cast aside and marginalised, transgender persons are typically accustomed to using their wits to survive. Devika, a transgender person from Mysuru, was no different. But the residents in her area —  in Mysuru’s Saligrama panchayat — believed in her, encouraged her and then empowered her to bring about a change. Forty-six-year-old Devika was elected from ward number 7 in Saligrama panchayat in the Karnataka Gram Panchayat elections 2020. She secured 115 votes, defeating her closest rival Yashoda by five votes, as the results were declared on Wednesday. 

'Devika Akka', as she is known in Saligrama, is a popular figure among the residents in Saligrama. "I have been living in Saligrama for 35 years. I decided to contest the elections after my friends encouraged me. Besides, the people here encouraged me when I went to their house seeking votes. Now, I want to give back to the community that elected me," an elated Devika told TNM after her victory.

According to residents of Saligrama, Devika was helped by residents in her locality. “The people here, especially from her colony, helped elect her," a resident said. 

Devika was born in Chunchanakatte in Mysuru district. However, like many others in her community, she decided to leave her home at the age of 16. She found work in Ghatkopar, a suburb in eastern Mumbai, living with members of the transgender community. "I survived by begging. I lived with my friends and I used to keep visiting my home in Saligrama often," she said.

Devika is also a dancer who has taken part in plays. "I grew up acting and dancing in plays. The plays were held during festivals and we would enact stories from mythology. It was when I was taking part in plays that I realised that I started identifying myself as a transgender person. I then moved out of my house," she recounted.

Devika said that she will continue to stay in Saligrama so that she can help serve the people in her locality. "I will listen to the concerns of residents in my locality (ward 7) and highlight whatever issues they come to me with. I aim to be available to my residents for even the smallest of needs," Devika added.    

The 46-year-old was among the two transgender persons who won the Gram Panchayat elections in Karnataka on Wednesday. In Ballari district's Hosapete village, a transgender person named Sudha won the elections in Kalahalli after she secured 622 votes. She won by more than 400 votes in the first gram panchayat elections held in the village in 26 years. Candidates were elected unanimously in the last 26 years in the village.

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