India appoints its first Transgender College Principal
Manabi Bandopadhyay becomes the first transgender principal of India, appointed to the Krishnagar Women's College, raising hope for improvement in the public opinion and government policies for the transgender community .
The state of transgenders in India may be improving for the better now, after all. After the Trans Rights Bill unanimously passed India’s Upper House Of Parliament last month, Jorhat college opened its doors to the third gender, Padmini Prakash became India’s first transgender TV News Anchor and Madhu Kinnar became the country’s first transgender Mayor, another encouraging news on the acceptance of transgenders has come up.
In a very forward-looking and open-minded move, Manabi Bandopadhyay has been appointed as the next principal for the Krishnagar Women’s College in West Bengal. She will be joining work from June 9.
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Manabi was born as Somnath Banerjee in 1966, in Naiheti in West Bengal. She had two sisters and despite being a ‘son’, she insisted on learning Indian classical dance forms which are at times reserved only for girls. She has been counseled a lot in her life, back in times when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder, and was told to give up on the idea of identifying herself as a girl.
However, she studied hard, got a first class degree and became a professor of Bengali literature. She is currently an Associate Professor at Vivekananda Satobarshiki Mahavidyalaya. She is known for her bestselling novel Endless bondage.
Her appointment has so far had a positive reaction, from the ministry, college administration and students. State education minister Partha Chatterjee told the TOI that he is happy about the decision but he does not interfere as these are calls taken by the college service commission, which is aware of the ministry’s broad-mindedness.
Ujjal Biswas, Chairman of the college governing body, also said that the choice was influenced by the need of a strong principal who could run things smoothly. Rattan Lal Hangloo, Vice-Chancellor of the Kalyani University to which Krishnagar is affiliated, said that he considers Manabi a fine human being, an able administrator and a good academician and that he hopes that this decision proves to be empowering for other individuals of the transgender community.
Manabi also gave the college a surprise visit on May 26, along with her adopted son, Debasish Manabiputro and her friend, Jyoti Samanto, who is also a transgender. She said that she wanted to meet and greet her colleagues personally before joining in, since she had just heard their voices.
Her appointment has come as a very good and positive stance of the Bengal education ministry, but Manabi has not reached this degree of acceptance without struggle. In one of her earlier postings in Jhargram college, she was ostracized and forced to move out of the quarters meant for faculty. After her sex realignment surgery in 2003, they also tried to fire her on the grounds that they had hired Somnath and not Manabi. However, she went to the Western Bengal Human Rights Commission and they helped her out. She also had to fight numerous court cases wherein she was called names, but she emerged triumphant in each obstacle.
Since then she has started a Bengali transgender group and also is the editor of a magazine about transgenders that they have started to print, called the Aba-manab which means sub human, to reflect the opinions and thinking of the people about transgenders. This appointment is perhaps an acknowledgement of her struggle and spirit in a roundabout way. Let us cross our fingers and await the transformations that this might lead to.
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