Friday, April 19, 2024, was a special day for K. Nalini, as the 38-year-old homemaker from the Kottapattu camp for Sri Lankan refugees in Tiruchi district, became the first naturalised Indian national from her community to exercise her franchise at the booth at St. Lourdes Primary School.

“My only hope is for my family and children to be able to progress and live without fear in India, as Indians,” Ms. Nalini told The Hindu.

“The Tamil Nadu government has taken good care of the 450 families in our camp, by providing free electricity, water and medical aid, but the lack of official identity papers remains a stumbling block for many of the older residents,” she added.

In September 2022, Ms. Nalini had established before the Madras High Court that she was an Indian citizen. She had enrolled as a voter of the Tiruchi (East) Assembly constituency, which comes under the Tiruchi Lok Sabha constituency, and had gone to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court to secure a passport.

It was given to her after she won the case. She applied for a voter ID through an e-service centre and received it by post in due course.

Born at the Sri Lankan refugee camp in Mandapam in April 1986, Ms. Nalini’s parentage is Indian, though generations of her family had migrated to Sri Lanka to work on the tea estates there.

She was granted citizenship as the year of her birth fell between January 26, 1950 and July 1, 1987, a period that made those born in India eligible for automatic naturalisation as Indians.

“I have spent all my life in camps, and have seen the hardships that can cause mental and social agony among young people. My husband is an autorickshaw driver and his income supports me and our two sons. I feel proud to have voted today, and hope the voice of our people will be heard by whoever comes to power,” said Ms. Nalini.


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