Madurai: On the eve of the May 16 Assembly poll, every political combination has been endorsing prohibition at the hustings. Long before the politicians brought prohibition into poll mode, the father-daughter duo of anti-liquor campaigners established their claim for a place under the sun as the premier champions of dry law. They have been raising their combined voice for over five years for the closure of all wine shops in Tamil Nadu after launching their non-violent protest in Madurai. Law graduate Nandhini and her father Anandhan, who have been periodically coming under the media limelight for their anti-alcohol agitations, are claiming credit for prohibition featuring in the manifesto of most of the parties and finding a mention in the campaign address of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa too.
“When I observed an indefinite fast on July 29, 2013 in Madurai demanding implementation of prohibition, it received wide support from the student community across the state. But some political parties mocked at me stating that I was seeking publicity. Today, all the political parties are speaking my language,” said 24-year-old Nandhini, who is facing 59 criminal cases for organising non-violent protests, along with her father, since 2011. Besides booking them, the police also attempted to silence the duo by spreading rumours against them in their residential area.
“The police circulated stories that we are troublesome people and forced our house owners to vacate us. We have shifted four houses in the last five years,” said her father K. Anandan, (50), who took voluntary retirement from the agricultural department in 2008, to work as full time social worker. Anandan launched the campaign against liquor as far back as 2008 and Nandhini joined him in 2011. “I have been hearing many painful stories from my classmates about their fathers coming home drunk and beating up their mothers in front of them when I was a student in Karur,” she said. She revealed that her close friend Banupriya couldn’t continue her higher studies because her father died due to alcohol addiction.
When Nandhini continued to hear similar stories from classmates and neighbours after joining the Government Law College in Madurai, she decided to fight against alcohol. In the last five years she, along with her father, has visited more than 500 schools across the state to educate the students against the bad effects of alcohol because many of them were getting addicted to liquor. “Though teachers warned the students to stay away from us in many places, we met them outside to distribute the pamphlets. When we closely interacted with the students from the four government schools in Madurai we were shocked to find that the fathers of 18 students had died of alcohol addiction,” said Nandhini. When the police locked her up in the Women prison in Tiruchy, Nandhini used that opportunity to interact with women inmates.
“Two women narrated how they were forced to kill their husband for torturing their children under the influence of alcohol,” she recalled. “In most of the villages we visited, women started crying after reading our pamphlets. Prohibition will be one of the main factors in deciding the victory of the political parties in this election,” said Anandan. The father and daughter have decided to intensify their campaign still the state goes to poll. “Though I have completed my degree, I can’t enrol in the bar council due to criminal cases pending against me, but I am happy that political parties have finally woken up to the issue,” she signed off.