Religious conversion has always been a controversial issue in India. A group of transgender eunuchs popularly called kinnars or hijras, who want to join Hindu fold ahead of Ujjain kumbh, are clashing with the all India body of sadhus and saints called Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad.
Ever since the medieval period, transgenders have classified themselves as Mulsim. They are organized under a separate community whose head is a Muslim Guru. They practice all the Islamic traditions and offer namaz occasionally. “Though they are born in Hindu bodies but practice Islam, we are giving them an opportunity to return to Hindu fold", says Rishi Ajay Das.
Led by Ajay Das, who himself is a transgender, the third sex people have formed a separate akhara (traditional mutts and clans of sadhus) despite opposition from 13 established akharas of Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad. The Kinnar Akhara is organizing meetings and camps among other trans-genders to persuade and facilitate them to join Hinduism.
In the Simhasth (Ujjain Kumbh) fair beginning from April 22 to May 21 the government has allotted a five acre piece of land to them to set up their camp like many other sadhus. There seems to be a tacit support of government to this group.
Ajay Das, a white clothes clad sadhu, has set up a separate ashram in Ujjain in order to facilitate conversion of hijras into Hindu fold. He says they are setting up six seats for our Kinnar sadhus all over country and appointing six pithadhishwar (chiefs). The former Mayor of Katni, who had distinction of being the first eunuch Mayor of the country, has been appointed as Mahamandeslhwar – one of the highest title.
Ajay Das is being supported by Laxmi Naryan Tripathi, the famous transgender activist, who fought for the rights of third gender in supreme court and other forums. Das is a Zoology gradute and has organized a huge kinnar sammellan in Ujjain to press for their rights to join Hinduism.
He says "because I facilitating the return of kinnars to Hindu fold, the sadhus and other akharas are opposing me. There are several lakh transgender people who want to join Hindu faith." In his ashram, he says, he performs re-introduction of transgenders into Hindu religion by recitation of mantras and yajnas.
Historically in Hinduism, there are only thirteen akharas (sects) of sadhus and Ajay Das has established 14th such akhara named Kinnar Akahara. The president of Akhil Bahrtiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri in a statement said that Hindu religion does not allow such raising of akharas. He said that he will not permit Kinnar Akhara to join the auspicious occasions of Kumbh Fair.
Ajay Das, however says "because we are making efforts to rejoin transgenders into Hindu religion that is why these sadhus are opposing us". He claimed that thousands of kinnars/hijras are in his touch who will be joining Hindusim during one month long Kumbh fair in Ujjain.