In a video that has gone viral on social media, a bureaucrat from Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district is winning hearts for standing up to hate and communal politics. Paunraj, the Kadayanallur Municipal Commissioner, confronted a man on Saturday who had come to complain regarding a water scarcity in his area. The man’s complaint quickly turned contentious as he reportedly dragged the caste and religious identity of those present at the municipality office— other complainants and government staff— to make his point.
The video shows an irate Paunraj telling the man to talk about the water crisis he is faced with, as opposed to bringing caste and religion into it. “Are you here to instigate communal and caste tensions? Is this a government office or your father’s office?” he asks. The man, with a saffron cloth around his neck, claims that he was not trying to create communal tensions. “I have already given a petition. There is no water, there are no basic amenities,” says the man. Responding to his complaint, the official says, “If there is no water, say there is no water. Instead of that, don’t say Muslim, Hindu, Chrisitan, this caste and that caste. This is wrong. There is no place for caste and religion in a government office. All castes and religions are here. Don’t do your politics here.”
A person tries to communalise #WaterScarcity issue in an area in Tirunelveli— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) July 13, 2019
Goes to government office & intimidates employees
Look at how this officer deals with him
"Keep your Politics, your religion, your caste out of this place. This is a govt office."#TamilNadu pic.twitter.com/gFVvlP2igd
According to sources at the Kadayanallur Municipality, the man had asked a group of sweeper staff at the commissionerate why they were working for the municipality when it was only Muslim and Christian areas that were receiving water. He had reportedly referred to them by their caste names. The officials present tried explaining to the man that two petitions from his ward had already been received and that the water issue was being addressed.
Speaking to TNM, Paunraj said, “People from all religions and castes were standing at the office with their complaints. It felt like this man was pointedly making comments towards certain communities present there, so I told him that there was no place for polarisation at a government office. He spoke and I replied, that’s all.”
“Our office has people from all communities working together. I told him not to refer to their caste and religious identities and speak like that,” added Paunraj, who attributes his views to a multicultural upbringing.