She is originally from Orissa. At 64, she was elected – by a wide margin – to the Indian Parliament with the support of the BJP. Archbishop Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar spoke with : “We hope you will speak out for tribal communities and stand firm on the values of our Constitution.”
New Delhi () – Droupadi Murmu, 64, was elected 15th. Indian president. This was officially announced today by the Indian Parliament at the end of the vote, after the vote on July 18. This is the first time that an adivasi woman, that is to say, from a tribal community, has been elected to the highest position in the Indian state. Murmu will officially take office on July 25, replacing the current president, Ram Nath Kovind. she was chosen with the support of the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, beating his opponent Yashwant Sinha, who had the support of the opposition, by a wide margin. She will be India’s second female president: before her, Pratibha Patil served from 2007 to 2012, and was elected with the backing of the Congress Party.
The daughter and granddaughter of a Santal village chief in Orissa, Murmu began her career as a teacher before joining the BJP in 1997. After holding various administrative positions, in 2015 she became the first tribal woman to be appointed Governor of Jharkhand and serve until the end of his term. The BJP describes her as a woman of humble origins who has dedicated her life to the community. Her personal life has been marked by tragedy: she Murmu lost her husband and her two children.
To what extent will the election of a tribal woman as president really mark a turning point for India? “Tribal communities and all Indians can be proud that a tribal woman has risen to the highest constitutional office,” she tells Monsignor John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, in Orissa, the Indian state from which Droupadi Murmu comes. “Tribals remain the most forgotten, backward and (also) exploited social sector. The lives of these people are intertwined with water, forests and land, which are the basis of livelihood, but also of our very existence and culture. But continued large-scale deforestation and displacement due to mega-development projects have pushed already marginalized tribal communities into poverty and deprivation.”
“As the 75th anniversary of India’s independence approaches,” adds Bishop Barwa, “the election of a tribal woman from Orissa brings hope. We pray and hope that as president she will raise her voice for the tribes and stand firm on the values of the Constitution”.
For his part, the Jesuit Vincent Ekka, priest and director of the Department of Tribal Studies of the Social Institute of India in New Delhi, explains to : “The election of Draupadi Murmu arouses a mixture of joy and suspicion. Joy, because for the first time in Indian history, a tribal woman is elevated to the highest office in the country, proving that even the marginalized can progress in life. Suspicion, because the practice and ideology of the current BJP government has only been a symbolic strategy of inclusion. There is a risk that the election of Ms. Murmu will also follow this path”, continues Fr. Ekka. “The majority of the tribal population continues to face marginalization, exclusion, forced relocation and constitutional disenfranchisement. Today, the big question for most citizens is whether the arrival of a tribal woman to the presidency of India will really bring justice and dignity to the tribal community and other marginalized communities”.