On July 25, 2022, Droupadi Murmu became the 15th President of India. It was a momentous event as Murmu is the first Adivasi, besides being the second woman, to occupy the topmost position of the country. Aged 64, she is also the youngest President.
India has over 10 crore Adivasi people, which is just around 9 per cent of the total population of the country. Belonging to 700 different tribes, they are spread over 28 states. Murmu, who is from Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, is a Santhali.
Santhals are the third largest tribal group of India after the Bhils and Gonds. There are over 58 lakh Santhals in the country who are inhabitants of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Tripura.
Here are some interesting facts about Murmu who has a remarkable journey from a small tribal hamlet, Uperbeda, in Rairangpur block of Mayurbhanj to Raisina Hill, the residence of the President.
1. Drupadi Murmu was born on June 20 1958 to marginal farmer Biranchi Narayan Tudu and his homemaker wife Singo Tudu. She had been named Puti after she was born but when she was admitted to the village school, a teacher changed her name to Droupadi.
2. After completing Class 8 in the village school, Murmu enrolled herself in the Capital High School in Bhubaneswar, around 300 km from her village. Her father sent her Rs.10 for her monthly expenses. After passing the Board examination, she completed her graduation in Rama Devi Women’s College (now University) in Bhubaneswar.
3. In the late 1970s, she joined the Irrigation Department of Odisha as a junior clerk and was posted in Bhubaneswar. She got married to Shyam Charan Murmu, who was working in the State Bank of India’s Rairangpur branch. In 1983, she quit her job and moved to Rairangpur where she worked as a teacher in the Sri Aurobindo School of Integral Education.
4. In 1997, Droupadi Murmu successfully contested the municipal polls and became the vice chairperson of the Rairangpur Municipality. Three years later, she won the Rairangpur assembly seat as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party. She was re-elected as MLA from the same constituency in 2004. Between 2000 and 2004, she became a minister of state in the Biju Janata Dal-BJP coalition government headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
5. In 2009, after the coalition between the BJD and BJP ended, she lost the election as a BJP candidate from Rairangpur. She served as the Mayurbhanj district BJP president three times till 2015. In 2013, she was also elected to the BJP National Executive (Scheduled Tribe Morcha).
6. In between, Murmu went through some personal tragedies. She lost her both sons in 2009 and 2012 respectively, and her husband in 2014. Her daughter Itishree Murmu works in a bank.
7. The next big jump in her political career came when she became the first woman Governor of Jharkhand in 2015. Droupadi Murmu attracted national limelight when she, as Governor, returned the controversial Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 2015 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 2015, moved by the Raghubar Das led BJP government in the state, with some queries. Both the Acts were seen as anti-tribal as they allowed transfer of tribal land to non-tribals. Her six-year tenure as the governor of Jharkhand made her a frontrunner for the post of President.