India on Friday elected its President setting a rare and unique precedent to the world. The National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) which is a coalition of one of the largest political parties and other regional parties presidential pick Droupadi Murmu has been making headlines since the announcement of her candidature. Hailing from a predominantly tribal district of Odisha, Mayurbhanj, Murmu’s work as a State functionary in various capacities is remembered as one of bold decisions, grit, and humility. Known for her unwavering connection to her tribal heritage, Murmu is revered. A progressive leader, she is said to be a believer in tradition, walking hand in hand with modernity. This was seen in the multitude of initiatives she undertook during her tenure as a widely respected Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and as the governor of Jharkhand. There was once a time when certain surnames, Murmu included, meant being subjected to derision in schools and colleges. While the social structure has witnessed reforms, Dalits and tribals continue to face various forms of oppression. That she is set to replace a Dalit man is proof of India's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Social justice and transformation — beyond just lip-service, even post-Mandal — must not remain as an idea in perpetuity.
Smt Draupadi Murumu: The newly elected President of India.
When BR Ambedkar (the cheif Architect of India's Constitution) spoke about three critical warnings on the eve of Independence Independence, the question of representation was at the top of his mind. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA have walked that talk.
A tribal as the first citizen of India was a dream of the tribal community since Independence. Murmu will symbolise the coming of a new age in India, ushering in the intersection of two vulnerable identities in society — a tribal and a woman — to transform and protect the people she represents with unwavering confidence. This is the highest honour for the marginalised.
In the past, PA Sangma, another tribal, backed by the NDA, was in the running, but could not make it. Selecting Murmu may prove to be a stepping stone in bringing various issues involving tribals — especially, tribal women — into the mainstream public discourse. With her at the helm as President, there are great hopes of highlighting the trials and tribulations of the tribals, women, the invisibles, the downtrodden, and the often forgotten. Her approach, combining tradition with modernity, is the need of the hour.
Since Independence, speeches have been made on the question of tribal welfare, no one has concentrated on giving this issue its true relevance and importance. Tribals have been a key concern, but have not received focused attention. This is perhaps why their issues take ages to be resolved.
For example, the demand for Jharkhand, a separate statehood for Adivasis, took more than half a century, though the demand began before Independence. Similarly, the demand for official recognition of the Santhali language lingered for a long period. It is only because the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government recognised these issues, that they got the relevance they deserved.
However, several issues persist, which require discussion and resolution. This includes the implementation of the 5th Schedule provisions, the Sarna code, the Self-Rule System, the issue of false witchcraft lynchings, and Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the tribals of Assam, among others. As per the Constitution, the powers of the governor along with the President are limited. They have to work in unison with the government through consultations with the cabinet. However, Murmu is not one to go along with the wishes of the government. She has time and again proved to be the real custodian of the Constitution for the tribals of Jharkhand. Her firm stand against the Raghubar Das-led government in Jharkhand on the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT), proving her will to fight for tribal rights, made her a hero overnight. It was a bold step by a governor from the same party. She exercised her constitutional powers again to oppose the formation of the Tribal Advisory Council by the United Progressive Alliance government in Jharkhand, as her consent was not taken by chief minister Hemant Soren.
Murmu is undaunted in unsettling times. Many political pundits, including her opponent, Yashwant Sinha, have called her a rubber-stamp President. This is unfortunate, because even a brief perusal of the pages of history shows that she has repeatedly proved her independence. To witness her as the first female tribal head of State will herald a new era of progress, equality, and respect. If she wins the elections, which is very likely, it will inspire millions.
From the Rajya Sabha to Raisina Hill, and even India’s prestigious Padma awards, there is a reflection of confronting social realities. The idea of “behalfism” has done a great amount of disservice to the cause of the marginalised. Now for the first time in the history of India, Dalit and tribal communities are articulating, asserting, and fighting for their rightful space in the new aspirational India. As young people from Dalit and tribal communities, we see hope and inspiration in this decision. We see a reflection of ourselves in DROUPADI Murmu.
Author: The original source of the article is from Hindustan Times authored by Jyoti Murmu and Guru Prakash Paswan
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