A Dalit woman has been named mayor of Chennai in India’s Tamil Nadu state, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of nearly 10 million.
Priya Rajan, 28, is also the youngest person and third woman to hold the position since the Greater Chennai Corporation was founded 334 years ago.
The Greater Chennai Corporation was formerly known as the Corporation of Madras (1668-1996) and Corporation of Chennai (1996-2016).
The Greater Chennai Corporation is considered the second oldest city council in the world after London.
Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, the city began in 1640 when the East India Company set up a trading post.
A graduate of economics with a Master in Commerce, Rajan belongs to the Evangelical Church of India and is a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Tamil Nadu’s ruling party.
“For women, it has been a great struggle to get their due place and dignity in our patriarchal society,” said Jesuit priest AXJ Bosco in a report of AsiaNews.
The priest said Rajan’s appointment “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,” said the Jesuit.
“Priya Rajan has overcome the threefold discrimination, that of being a woman, a Dalit, and a Christian,” he added.
“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,” said Father Bosco.
“We wish Priya all success … and may she be a source of inspiration and courage for all women, especially Dalit Christian women.”