Tiruchy: After legal battle, this Sri Lankan Tamil is now Kottapattu camp’s 1st voter

Notably, a person born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987 is a “citizen by birth”, as per Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1995.
 Nalini Kirubakaran with her voter Id card
Nalini Kirubakaran with her voter Id cardPhoto | Express

TIRUCHY: “I am going to vote for the first time in the general election and assert that I am an Indian. I was dreaming of this opportunity for decades; now I feel I belong here,” said Nalini Kirubakaran, 38, who resides in the rehabilitation camp for Sri Lankan Tamils at Kottapattu in Tiruchy.

Nalini was born in Mandapam camp, a refugee centre in Rameswaram, in 1986. Her journey from being a stateless citizen to the first refugee of the Kottapattu camp to get voting rights began in 2021 when she moved the Madras High Court after her application for an Indian passport was rejected by a regional passport office.

On August 12, 2022, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court headed by Justice GR Swaminathan directed authorities to issue an Indian passport to Nalini, citing her birth certificate from Mandapam.

Notably, a person born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987 is a “citizen by birth”, as per Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1995.

Eventually, she secured her passport, but continues to reside in the rehabilitation camp, with special permission from the district collector, to be with her family. “I have memorised the names of all the Tiruchy candidates,” said Nalini as her advocate Romeo Roy urged the candidates to seek her support.

Nalini, who received her voter ID earlier this year, wants all other refugees of the camp to enjoy the same rights.

“It’s a dream come true for me. I will vote for the party which assures Indian citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian origin Tamils living in camps across the state for several decades," she said.

“Now, I am engaged in legal battles to secure citizenship for my two children who were born in India,” she added.

Meanwhile, Stella Mary (name changed), an Indian origin Tamil, who is on a similar legal battle to shrug off her ‘refugee’ tag urged leaders from Tamil Nadu to fight for their cause in the Parliament.

Echoing similar sentiments, Kala (name changed), who has been living in the camp for over two decades, said, “Though we are beneficiaries of state government schemes, including Magalir Urimai Thogai, I want to feel that I belong here by exercising my right to vote. It will be giving justice to members of a persecuted community.”

According to Ashik Bonofer, a professor at Madras Christian College, 58,457 refugees are living in similar camps across the state. The new government needs to have the political will to give citizenship for the Sri Lankan Tamils, he said.

Romeo Roy, who fought Nalini’s case in the high court and asserted that she is the first in the Kottapattu camp to get voting rights, says he is now on a mission to ensure all other refugees in the camp get to ink their fingers in the country’s future elections.

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