A group of transgender gurus will build a permanent ashram or religious center in Allahabad, according to India’s Ministry of Culture.
The group, Kinnar Akhara, made headlines when they led the procession at the beginning of Kumbh Mela celebrations earlier this month.
Kinnar Akhara’s camp at the religious festival Prayagraj Kumbh receives hundreds of thousands of devotees each day.
‘Kinnar Akhara, a group of transgender saints pursuing religious activities has emerged as a very significant feature at [religious festival] Prayagraj Kumbh’ a statement released Tuesday (21 January) said.
One of the group’s leaders is Laxmi Narayan Tripathi. The high-profile transgender rights activist instrumental in helping deliver landmark legal recognition in 2014. The activist is also a film and reality TV star.
Tripathi led the procession riding a camel and bearing a huge sword. Trans Indians have praised Tripathi for returning India’s third gender, also known as Hijra, to its rightful place in society.
‘Transgenders were badly exploited in the society and even their parents were forced to live a disgraceful life’ Tripathi said according to the ministry statement.
But, Tripathi said, Hijras been given respectful status in religious epics and books of Hindu mythology for thousands of years.
Trans rights in India
An 1871 British law made Hijra unlawful.
While a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014 recognized transgender as a third gender, the community remains marginalized.
Trans Indians and their allies have been urgently rallying against a transgender bill. They want a parliamentary committee in the Upper House to review the law.
India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill last month. They had hooped it would protect their rights.
But, the transgender community has slammed it. They claim it infringes their rights rather than protecting them.
Activists organized large-scale protests in Indian cities over the weekend.