In fight against fascism, Christians in coastal Thoothukudi support DMK’s Kanimozhi

Several of the residents whom TNM met in the coastal regions of Thoothukudi support the DMK simply because the Church endorses them.
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi campaigning in Thoothukudi
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi campaigning in ThoothukudiKanimozhi Karunanidhi /Facebook page
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While reporting in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi, a priest from a prominent church near the town posed an unexpected question: “As a fellow Christian, what makes you think Catholics could align with the BJP in Kerala?”

The priest, considered a prominent leader of the coastal community in Thoothukudi, expressed disbelief that certain sections of Christians in Kerala could be influenced by the BJP and its ideologies, and actively propagate bogeys like ‘love jihad’. “Christians can never compromise with the BJP, neither ideologically nor politically. In Tamil Nadu, especially in Thoothukudi, minority communities stand united,” he said.

His distrust of the BJP also extends to its former ally, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). “How can we trust the AIADMK? They once allied with the BJP, and who's to say they won't do it again? They didn't sever ties due to ideological differences or the BJP’s treatment of minorities; they did so because the BJP personally attacked their leaders,” he said.

The Christian community in the Thoothukudi constituency constitutes a major section of the population. The community's sentiments were apparent after Easter mass on March 31 outside a church in Thoothukudi, where a priest and parishioners discussed politics. The priest told TNM, “The majority of Christian voters will only cast their votes for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Furthermore, there has been growing support for [DMK MP] Kanimozhi ever since she assumed power.”

The priest clarified that the Christian support for DMK in Thoothukudi does not stem from instructions given by the Church. “The people are aware that the church here supports the DMK. Although some sections previously supported the AIADMK, after their alliance with the BJP, Christian groups are very specific about voting for the DMK,” he said.

The support for DMK and Kanimozhi

Across the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency, especially in the coastal region, TNM met both Catholics and Protestants who unanimously voiced support for the DMK. While some of the voters are pleased with the current MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, there are others who are not. For the latter, their choice of DMK stems from a feeling that they have no alternative.

“Kanimozhi Amma has been with us in the constituency for the last 10 years. Even before she was elected as Thoothukudi MP, she was actively involved in local affairs. Whenever we needed something or had questions, she was approachable and has been here like one among us," said Mary, a resident near Emperor Street in Thoothukudi.

Supporters of Kanimozhi highlight her continuous presence in the constituency during the floods. Floritta, another resident of Thoothukudi, said, "[Kanimozhi] stood by us through the difficult times.Both relief and rehabilitation efforts taken under her initiative were commendable."

‘No alternative to DMK’

However, there are dissenters. Anitta, who belongs to the fishermen community near Mini Sahayapuram, said that even though she would vote for Kanimozhi, she would be doing it reluctantly. Standing in front of her house, Anitta said, "I was born in this house, and for the last 50 years, we have been living here without a title deed. We have power and water connections, pay taxes, but have no title deed. I met Kanimozhi a couple of times to submit petitions, and she promised that everything would be taken care of, but it hasn't happened yet.”

Several other residents also reported not having received title deeds. "These politicians don't understand the hardships of the people; they need to come down and live with us to truly know what we go through," added Anitta.

However, she stressed that she would not vote for the AIADMK and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) due to ideological differences. "If I had an alternative to DMK, I would choose that," she said.

Resistance to fascism

A pastor in a Protestant church in Thoothukudi expressed concerns about the insecurity felt by Christians in Tamil Nadu and the threat of fascist forces. "We are being targeted over alleged forced conversions, which is a longstanding propaganda used against Christians in Tamil Nadu by fascist groups. Therefore, the safest choice for us is to support the DMK. While AIADMK aligns with Dravidian politics, they are susceptible and easily influenced by the BJP. We cannot trust them," he explained.

The pastor acknowledged that churches guide believers in their political decisions. "Although there are no official notices, during the last assembly elections, some churches issued statements urging people to vote for the DMK. Our approach is to raise awareness among people so that they aren't swayed by the money offered by other parties. Many are unaware of the national situation, so we hold unofficial meetings to educate them," he added.

Several of the residents whom TNM met in the coastal regions of Thoothukudi support the DMK simply because the Church endorses them.

Jassintha, from Eral in Thoothukudi, one of the worst flood-affected areas, shared her experience. "During the floods, we starved for two days. On the third day, members of the Muslim community from Kayalpattinam and other areas of Thoothukudi somehow reached us and provided food and essentials. After the floods receded, they also helped us with clothes, beds, and other necessities. The government provided nothing, citing lack of title deeds for our houses. Therefore, we cannot support any party that is anti-Muslim. The previous rule of AIADMK was also unsatisfactory; we have no option other than the DMK," she reasoned.

A retired college professor and activist from Thoothukudi told TNM that Kanimozhi is widely accepted in the coastal constituency. "Kanimozhi was seen as approachable by the people; she was considered humble, which is something commoners appreciate.”

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