Breaking a Ceiling
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Indian lawmakers elected an Indigenous tribal woman to become the country’s president this week, a move seen as a significant breakthrough for one of India’s marginalized minority groups, the Washington Post reported.
Draupadi Murmu, a former governor of Jharkhand state, was sworn in Monday, making her the first Indigenous person and the second woman to serve as India’s head of state, a position that holds limited powers compared to those of the prime minister.
Her election received support from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as from tribal and some opposition lawmakers.
BJP leaders hailed her election as a testament to an “aspirational” India under their leadership. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Murmu will “be an outstanding president who will lead from the front and strengthen India’s development journey.”
Murmu’s ascent is considered a major step for Indian democracy, which is driven by caste, religion and regional identities. Analysts noted that the recent election also underscores the BJP’s strategy to expand its voter base to attract more Hindus traditionally considered lower in the caste hierarchy and the Indigenous tribal population.
Indigenous people – collectively known as Adivasi or “original inhabitants” – make up roughly nine percent of India’s population and have long been at the bottom of the country’s socioeconomic ladder.
They are far more likely to be illiterate than other groups, while almost half live under the poverty line.