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07/27/2022 India (International Christian Concern) – Draupadi Murmu swore in as the new president of India this week, officially making her the nation’s first tribal woman president. Her tribal background has encouraged jubilation amongst many in India’s tribal community, which constitutes 8.6 percent of the country’s population according to the most recent census. Some church leaders have also expressed their hopeful outlook regarding her election. Father Nicholas Barla, the secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Tribal Affairs, told UCA News, “It is a proud moment for all the tribal communities in India and as she is a tribal she can relate to the problems and difficulties faced by tribal communities, hence people expect she may address them accordingly.”

While many are hopeful, others have voiced significant skepticism about the impact of Murmu’s election, backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On twitter recently, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated her on her election, and some have suggested that this election result is merely a symbolic victory that will be used by the Modi and his BJP to expand their influence amongst tribals without implementing positive change. One critical reporter asserted, “Nobody has heard Murmu speak on any important issue, not even while crisscrossing the vast nation during her token presidential campaign after filing her nomination.” Many concerns over her prospective impact also relate to her prior political record, which included time serving as the governor of the Indian state of Jharkhand. One official who worked with her during her time as governor, Ratan Tirkey, explained, “Judging by her time as governor, she has to be more authoritative as president when faced with political pressure from the ruling BJP.

Regardless of skepticism, though, President Murmu has the support of many who are just happy to see a tribal achieve this new milestone in Indian politics. We pray that President Murmu will carry this support forward into her work, advancing the rights of all tribals in India, including tribal Christians who commonly face persecution from Hindu radicals.

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