Syyed Mansoor Agha welcomes Madam Droupadi Murmu as the 15th President of India, and hopes that she would stand against the challenges the nation is passing through.
We welcome Mrs. Droupadi Murmu for her elevation to the top constitutional post of the President of India, ‘the Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic.’ She assumed her office on 25th July 2022, with the oath in the name of God to ‘faithfully execute the office of President of the Republic of India,’ and ‘to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law to my best abilities.’ She also assured the nation ‘to devote herself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of India.’
We expect the President to fully honour her words and fulfil the assurances she gave to the nation in her inaugural speech. We understand it will be a very tactful and herculean task for the President to assert and reverse the degradation the Republic is facing. But the President of India does not have the authority like an ‘Executive President’. Mrs. Murmu will have to choose the role of “a working and assertive president” or otherwise to be ready to endorse government decisions without question or deliberation and sign on the dotted line. We wish to see in her the working, as former Presidents K.R. Narayanan described and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam demonstrated, “within the four corners of the constitution.”
We are proud of our distinguished personalities who occupied the President House in the past, including Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Zakir Husain, K.R. Narayanan, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and others. They enriched the office with their magnanimity. Also preserved, protected, and promoted the idea of an inclusive India. Time will tell how the new Present conducts herself in the evil storm of “exclusiveness”.
In her inaugural speech, she paid tribute to our freedom fighters and mentioned several by name, but strangely missed even Gandhi Ji and his distinguished co-fighters from other communities like Abul Kalam Azad. We regret the exclusion but presume it is drafting mischief, left un-noticed. However, her simplicity gave the soothing message of peace, purity, and prevalence.
Mrs. Murmu has created the history of sorts. She is the first tribal, that too a woman to be the President and also the first in the seat younger than our Independence. She assumed the President-ship when the nation is completing 75 years of her Independence. Time will tell, whether she will choose to stand against the challenges the nation is passing through.
The advent of Independence in 1947 kindled many hopes. In the last seven decades plus, we achieved a lot. But now it looks that optimism is fading fast and the very ideas of ‘we stand united’ and our ‘graceful democracy’ are under strain. The political morality and the objectives of our freedom are under clouds.
As a tribal woman, associated with Brahma Kumari’s mission of meditation, she should have absorbed the virtues of the purity of the heart and mind, and the love for all. Her assuming the highest office should have lit optimism in many against all odds. We can only wish the lady to rise above her political affiliation, as she has been an ardent soldier of the party for the last 25 years of her political career. Now at the last leg, the nation needs her to muster the ‘tribal courage’ as she referred to in her inaugural speech. The call is loud to suppress all inclinations of favours and disfavours and perform the most needed role of the protector of the Constitution and the legitimate interests of the citizens from different faiths and ideologies.
CALL OF THE TIME
Madam Murmu will certainly create another history if she stood up for the objectives stated in the Preamble of our Constitution: ‘to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation’.
It needs not to count how injustices are being inflicted selectively and inequality before the law is becoming the rule of the era. Fraternity between the communities is being sabotaged day and night. Concerted campaigns to discriminate against people on the bases of cast, creed, and religion and incidents of hate speech are all around. People of one community are being jailed if supplicate before their God in the open while crowds of others are being provided with protection to occupy miles-long roads and public places in the name of religiosity.
Fanatics have made their motif to object diet and dress of others. Nudeness is getting applauses and sobriety and an identity of Indian culture is being jeered. Girl students are being debarred from sitting in the classroom with covered heads. Calls of oneness are being suppressed and feelings of otherness are being promoted. The nefarious campaigns are in full swing to destroy values that are valuable to us, culturally and constitutionally. Madam President has an opportunity to help promote the worthy and prevent the undesirable. It will also be construed as her duty as a mother, sister, and the President of India.
Though it sounds lovely and highly inspiring, a woman from the most deprived section of society rose to acquire high education, started her career as a clerk in the state government office, became a teacher then a political figure, and was appointed Governor of a state. Now she is President. But it is not a solitary case. Outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind also hailed from a remote village of Kanpur and from a Dalit community as K.R. Narayanan did. A former President Giani Zail Singh also rose from the ashes. He was a ‘Ragi’ in a Gurudawara, became Chief Minister of then East Punjab, then Union Home Minister.
TRUTH AND TOKENISM
There is great hype that a tribal woman is in President’s chair. The question is whether it will help resolve the issues of her community, elevate their fate, diminish disparities and uplift the downtrodden. Assessments of the past draw disdain. Recall just one incident. Our Sikh brothers saw the worst times when a person of their community was the helpless occupant of the President’s House.
Naturally, such hypes build some hopes. A high position to one from a fraternity is merely a tokenism. This can help only the rulers as we saw in recent elections. The President-elect got over 64 per cent votes and many political adversaries of NDA also find themselves in line. The communities are not among the beneficiaries. So far, as we understand, the incumbent President’s political career has also been devoted to party interests. Her defeat from her home turf and tribal-dominated Lok Sabha Constituency of Mayurbhanj in 2009 speaks a lot. I conclude a tweet from Smt. Murmu:
“I humbly greet all the fellow citizens from this sacred Parliament, a symbol of the hopes, aspirations, and rights of all the citizens of India.
“Your affection, trust, and support will be my greatest strength in discharging my functions and responsibilities.”
[The writer is Chairman Forum for Civil Rights. email: [email protected]]