Word For Peace
TRICHY: In these times of strife and threats of polarisation on communal lines, a village panchayat in Pudukottai district stands out as an example of harmony.
Seriyalur Inam in Keeramangalam, which is dominated by Hindus, has elected a Muslim as panchayat president to express their solidarity with those opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act. Mohammed Jiyavudeen, 45, secured 554 of the 1,360 votes polled in the village which has 60 Muslim votes. “Shankar, who was among the five contestants for the post, came close, receiving just 17 votes less than Jiyavudeen,” said K Rajagopal, a villager who supported Jiyavudeen’s candidature.
The mutharaiyar and vellalar communities have the biggest vote share, besides people from the scheduled castes (SC).
Seriyalur Inam was among many panchayats in the state where president posts had been auctioned, said C Rajagopal, another villager. The post was auctioned for Rs 10 lakh.“We were not in favour of auctioning the post as it would do no good to the local people,” he said. S V Kamarasu, a resident of the village, said that citing the auction one of the candidates even got a promise from each family head that they would vote for him. “When the Union government is trying to create a divide among people of different religions by passing the CAA, we, the Hindus in the village, chose to elect a Muslim to keep our panchayat united and secular,” he said.
Jiyavudeen said that it was heart-warming when a family head came to him saying that he voted for a Hindu candidate as he had made a promise to him, but made four of his family members cast their votes in favour of Jiyavudeen. Jiyavudeen’s standing as a social worker in the village too helped to consolidate his prospects in the election. His extensive work to rehabilitate local people affected by cyclone Gaja had made him popular. Financially stable after having worked in gulf countries for decade, he founded the Seriyalur Inam Youth Development Committee in the village to create livelihood options for farmers devastated by the cyclone.
Jiyavudeen said his first task as panchayat president will be to bring Cauvery river water to the village Ayyankulam tank that is spread across 25 acres. Through the committee, he has been striving to revive a kilometre-long canal to bring the water.