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Indians in Harris’ ancestral home wake up to her victory

Aijaz Rahi
Associated Press

Thulasendrapuram, India – After rooting for Kamala Harris as President-elect Joe Biden’s running mate, people in her small ancestral Indian village woke up Sunday morning to the news of her making history.

Most of them had gone to sleep by the time Biden clinched the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes.

“Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village. Vanakkam (Greetings) America,’’ one female resident wrote in color powder outside her residence.

Villagers read Tamil language newspapers carrying headlines about U.S. election results at a local eatery in the hometown of U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' maternal grandfather, in Thulasendrapuram, south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.

“We all have been waiting for this day. Congratulations,” Aulmozhi Sudhakar, a village councilor, said.

The village of Thulasendrapuram, population 350, planned to celebrate Harris’ success with singing, dancing and firecrackers at a temple later Sunday. Already in the morning hours, groups gathered at street corners reading newspapers and chatting about the Democrats’ victory before moving to the temple for prayers.

Cutouts and posters wishing Harris a “grand success” adorned the village walls.

“Kamala Harris is the daughter of our village. From children to senior citizens, each one of us is awaiting the day she would take oath as the vice president of the U.S.,” said Sudhakar.

J. Sudhakar, who organized prayers on Election Day, expressed his wish that Harris should now visit the village. As Americans voted, nearly 50 residents, with folded hands, lined up in the temple that reverberated with the sounds of ringing bells, and a Hindu priest gave them sweets and flowers as a religious offering.

Women in the village, located 350 kilometers (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai, used bright colors to write “We Wish Kamala Harris Wins” on the ground, alongside a thumbs-up sign.

The lush green village is the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, who migrated to the U.S. there decades ago.

Inside the temple where people have been holding special prayers, Harris’ name is sculpted into a stone that lists public donations made to the temple in 2014, along with that of her grandfather who gave money decades ago.

Harris’ mother also was born in India, before moving to the U.S. at the age of 19 to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican, Kamala Harris’ father.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet described Harris’ success as pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for her relatives but also for all Indian-Americans. “I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”

Indian women prepare a Kolam, a traditional art work using colored powder, congratulating U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the hometown of Harris' maternal grandfather, in Thulasendrapuram, south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.

There has been both excitement – and some concern – over Biden’s choice of Harris as his running mate.

Modi had invested in President Donald Trump, who visited India in February. Modi’s many Hindu nationalist supporters also were upset with Harris when she expressed concern about the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose statehood India’s government revoked in August last year.

Harris stood by Pramila Jayapal, another U.S. congresswoman of Indian origin, when India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting in the United States over her participation last year. Jayapal had earlier moved a resolution on the Kashmir issue critical of India in the House of Representatives.

Rights groups accuse India of human rights violations in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where insurgent groups have been fighting for independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989.