03/08/2022, 14.09
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Chennai gets its first woman Dalit mayor

by Nirmala Carvalho

Priya Rajan, a 28-year-old Christian Dalit, was sworn in last week. The city is India’s fourth largest. For Father Bosco, she is a “source of inspiration and courage” for all Dalit and Christian women.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Priya Rajan is the first Dalit mayor of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India’s the fourth largest city with a population of nearly 10 million. She was sworn in last Friday.

At 28, she is the youngest person and third woman to hold the position since the Greater Chennai Corporation was founded 334 years ago[*].

A graduate in economics with a Master in Commerce, Rajan belongs to the Evangelical Church of India and is a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam[†] (DMK), Tamil Nadu’s ruling party.

Her predecessors include Tamil Nadu’s incumbent Chief Minister M. K. Stalin, and the current Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ma Subramanian. Based on local administrative rules, the post was assigned to a Dalit woman.

The Greater Chennai Corporation is considered the second oldest city council in the world after London (Great Britain). Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, the city began in 1640 when the East India Company set up a trading post.

Along with Rajan, 10 other women were elected to the post of mayor in several cities across the state.

“For women it has been a great struggle to get their due place and dignity in our patriarchal society,” Father Bosco told AsiaNews. Priya Ranjan’s rise “acquires great significance in the present context of gender equality and women's empowerment.”

“In St John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked water from a Samaritan woman, she replied: ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?’ pointing out the twofold discrimination of their society,” noted the clergyman.

“Priya Rajan has overcome the threefold discrimination, that of being a woman, a Dalit and a Christian! We congratulate her for being a powerful symbol of women's liberation and empowerment. This is a great boost to all women, irrespective of social status.”

According to Pope Francis, women "bring harmony”, teach to “love tenderly”, and “make the world into something beautiful,” Father Bosco added.

“We wish Priya all success,” and “may she be a continuous source of inspiration and courage for all women, especially Dalit Christian women.”

[*] The Greater Chennai Corporation was formerly known as the Corporation of Madras (1668-1996) and Corporation of Chennai (1996-2016).

[†] Dravidian Progressive Federation.

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