An emerging picture in recent times in Europe and North America is the active and successful participation of Tamils in the local politics. The new impetus seems to be coming from the younger generation of Eezham Tamils. Twelve candidates of Tamil origins have been elected to the local bodies of Paris and suburbs in the local government elections concluded last Sunday in France. Seven of them are Eezham Tamils while three are of Pondicheri (Paa’ndichcheari) origins and one each of Mauritius and Guaduloupe background.
[L-R] Six of the 12 elected candidates: Alain Anandane, Asamta Thayalini William-Reginald, Kalaiyarasi Raviendranathan, Naguleswari Ariyaratnam, Sophia Soosaipillai and Lilawtee Rajendram
The French – Tamil connections are a long legacy ever since the French East India Company was established at Pondicheri in 1664. The French and the Danish (at Tharangkampaadi) were the two European powers who thought of having their colonial headquarters in the land of Tamils.
A considerable part of the modern history of Tamils had a strong link to the colonial history of the French. Tamils migrated to various French colonies across the world and a representative group are living in France today. A large number of Tamils who have made France their home are from Pondicheri who migrated to France with the annexation of French territories by independent India.
Pongkal festival participated by six organisations of Tamils from different parts of the world in Paris in January, 2008. Seen in the photograph is a Tamil band called Inniyam, a recent innovation of the Eastern University in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. [Photo Courtesy: appaal-tamil.com]
A program given by Caribbean Tamils at the Pongkal celebrations. [Photo Courtesy: appaal-tamil.com]
Even though Tamils have found representation in French politics, new inspirations came with the arrival of Eezham Tamils, shaping and giving form to a common Tamil identity in France.
Around 125,000 Tamils are estimated to be living in France. Of them, around 50,000 are Eezham Tamils.
A significant event that took place in Paris last January was Tamils of all shades jointly celebrating Pongkal as a common festival of Tamil identity.
Another noticeable manifestation of the emerging cultural consciousness is the presence of four Tamil bookshops in the La Chapelle area of Paris.
Fourteen Eezham Tamils contested in the local government elections in early March in Paris and suburbs alone. Five were elected in the first round. In addition, Two Pondicheri Tamils and Mrs. Lilawtee Rajendram, a Mauritiun Tamil married to an Eezham Tamil were also elected in the first rounds.
A striking feature of the concluded elections is that almost all the elected Eezham Tamils belong to left wing political parties. Observers identify a subtle message of Tamil unhappiness conveyed to the present right wing government, says writer Ki.Pi. Aravindan in Paris.
Thilagawathy Sanmuganathan, Thusyanthy Ganechandra, Sumathi Wijeyaraj and Khamshajiny Gunaratnam were elected to municipal and local councils in Oslo and Akershus in 2007. [Photo Courtesy: notam.no]
Last year, in Norway, eight Eezham Tamils, five of them women, were elected to the local bodies. Two of the women were aged 19 and 22 when they got elected.
According to Statistics Norway, a Norwegian government survey, 70 percent of Eezham Tamil women participated in the voting which is the highest among the migrants in Norway.
Political consciousness, education and long established familiarity with the norms of democratic politics are said to be the reasons behind the diaspora Tamil political activism.
The details of candidates elected in Paris and suburbs follow:
- Mme Naguleswary Ariyaratnam, (Eezham)
SEINE SAINT-DENIS (93) – Clichy-sous-Bois
- Mme Sarmela Sabaratnam, (Eezham)
VAL D’OISE (95) – Louvres
- Mme Sophia Soosaipillai, (Eezham)
VAL D’OISE (95) – Sarcelles
- Mme Preetty Navaneetharaju, (Eezham)
ESSONNE (91) – Evry
- Mme Asamtathayalini Willam-Reginald (Eezham)
SEINE ET MARNE (77) – Chelles
- M. Arulasantham Puvanespararajah, (Eezham)
SEINE SAINT-DENIS (93) – La Courneuve
- Mme Kalaiyarasi Raviendranathan, (Eezham)
VAL DE MARNE (94 ) – Villeneuve-Saint-Georges
- M. Alain Anandane (Pondicheri)
SEINE SAINT-DENIS (93) – Drancy
- M. Chandrasegaran Parassouramane (Pondicheri)
VAL D’OISE (95) – Villiers-le-Bel
- Mme Shama Nilavannane (Pondicheri)
SEINE SAINT-DENIS (93) – Le Bourget
- Mme Marie Darves-Bornoz (Guaduloupe)
HAUTS DE SEINE (92) – Bagneux
- Mme Lilawtee Rajendram (Mauritius)
SEINE SAINT-DENIS (93) – Bondy