INDIA: Dalit Christian woman is youngest mayor of India’s Chennai city

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Priya Rajan is a member of the Evangelical Church of India, which has congregations in at least 10 states

UCA News reporter, Chennai

UCA News reporter, Chennai

 March 07, 2022
Dalit Christian woman is youngest mayor of India's Chennai city

Priya Rajan being sworn in as Greater Chennai Corporation’s youngest mayor in Chennai city, India, on March 4. (Photo: chennaicorporation.gov.in)

 

Priya Rajan, a Dalit Christian woman, has become the youngest mayor of Chennai (formerly Madras), the fourth-largest city in India with a population of around 10 million.

Rajan, 28, a postgraduate in commerce, was sworn in on March 4 as the 49th mayor of the city. She is said to be a member of the Evangelical Church of India (ECI), which has congregations in at least 10 states.

Welcoming the appointment, Father Vincent Chinnadurai, the former spokesperson of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, said it was a remarkable moment for Dalit Christian women.

“We appreciate the state government for this bold move. I am sure more women will feel inspired by Priya Rajan,” he added.

Chennai, the state capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is a hub for education, health, information technology and automobile industries.

Considered the second-oldest city council in the world after London, the Greater Chennai Corporation was formed in 1668 by the erstwhile East India Company, which founded it in 1640 as a trading post.

It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community

The state’s ruling DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or Dravidian Progressive Front) under the leadership of Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, 68, won a landslide victory in the polls held on Feb. 19 after a gap of 11 years.

Rajan, a member of DMK, is also the third woman to hold this prestigious post and joins 10 women across the state who have been elected as mayors and chairpersons in various small cities and towns.

Capuchin Father Kulandai Swamy told UCA News: “It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community.”

Father Swamy, a known social activist, said Rajan’s appointment “will blunt the [pro-Hindu] BJP’s communal propaganda in Tamil Nadu as it shows the willingness of Dravidian parties to uplift the Dalits.”