Christian fishermen of three districts threaten to boycott polls

Denied political representation for nearly 20 years, a group of Christian fishermen, who claim to have over two lakh votes in the three districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi, are seriously considering boycotting the ensuing assembly elections, according to community sources.
Christian fishermen of three districts threaten to boycott polls
A delegation of Christian leaders met DMK chief M Karunanidhi (Photo: J Gnana Jain)

Chennai

They are apparently angry because the candidates’ list announced by AIADMK a few days ago has nobody from the community. Their feeling of political isolation is exacerbated by the fact that Royapuram constituency in Chennai with less than 20,000 fishermen votes has found representation in the recent list. 
According to party sources in Kanyakumari, Christian fishermen had been given seats right from the time of former Congress CM K Kamaraj when the then Colachel constituency was represented by Ms Lourdammal Simon who both won and lost in the constituency. Later, it was Era Barnard’s turn to win in 1996 from Kanyakumari district with a 9000-vote margin.
Legislators like GR Edmund, Jeniffer Chandran and E Barnad saw fluctuating fortunes. Both Edmund and Jeniffer Chandran held ministerial berths in MGR and M Karunanidhi’s cabinets.What is surprising is that Christian fishermen differentiate themselves from their Hindu counterparts despite the latter becoming legislators over the years. “Whom do we approach when our community does not have any body to guide us?” they lament. 
Kanyakumari district has the largest number of Christian fishermen voters numbering 1.90 lakh in 43 villages followed by Thoothukudi with 70,000 voters in 15 villages and 24,000 voters in 15 villages in Nellai villages totalling 2.84 lakh voters. 
“A resolution by the Nadar Mahajan Sangam in the early nineties calling for unity among various sub-castes to ensure success in their political ventures was also a reason for Christian fishermen to unite for similar reasons,” sources explained. “Why are established political parties hesitant to ensure representation for our community in the assembly?” they demand to know. But the answers are not forthcoming. 
With fishermen of Ramnad, Pudukottai and Thanjai districts announcing that they would put up their own candidates due to lack of action by the state and central governments in seeking the release of fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy and also the seized boats, this is the first time that fishermen have thrown down the gauntlet in no uncertain terms. And matters stand there today.

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