Guru-chela Relationship in Khwajasira Culture of Pakistan: Uncovering the Dynamics of Power and Hegemony Within
Keywords:Khwajasira, guru-chela, Pakistan, hegemony, transgender
The khwajasira community in Pakistan for the last few years has been actively pursuing a struggle to achieve their fundamental rights. With the promulgation of the Transgender Person’s Act of 2018, Pakistan has become among the few countries in the world considered to be extremely progressive in protecting the rights of these individuals. While praise and acclaim are levelled toward their struggle with problems and issues associated with the outside world (social world), there has been little if any work produced on their particular culture especially the dynamics of the guru-chela relationship in Pakistan. The khwajasira community’s existence in Pakistan, with its specific culture, predates the creation of the nation. Over a period of time, transformation and change have taken place within this community. While some of the traditions remained intact, others faced fundamental changes. The guru-chela relationship is considered to be the core/foundational aspect of khwajasira culture and community in Pakistan. The dominant discourse in Pakistan is that the transgender community is marginalized and discriminated against by society at large; however, there has been a scarcity of work that critically question the “internal world” of the transgender community in Pakistan. In this regard, this article aims to unearth some of the dynamics of their living world. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with 20individuals (17chelas and 3 gurus) residing in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, this article argues that transgender activism (for their rights) is entirely an engagement with the “outer world”, while within their own particular communities/groups the existence of discrimination, violation of rights and even violence are largely overlooked or have never been talked about, especially within the guru-chela relationship. It is revealed through this research that within the khwajasira community, especially with respect to the guru-chela relationship, there exist unchallenged/unrequited power and hegemony. This relationship, hierarchal in nature, not only gives rise to discrimination and violation of human rights, but also perpetuates violence on a day-to-day basis.