November 2016 was a tumultuous time in Jharkhand. The Raghuvar Das-led BJP government had passed amendments to two centuries-old land laws – the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Acts – that would have ensured easy transfer of land for industrial use. Since the amendments led to massive protests by tribal communities across the state and around 200 delegations met the then Governor Drupadi MurmuEight months later, in June 2017, he returned the law to the government to clarify how the amendments would benefit tribals.
A prominent Raj Bhavan employee, who was aware of the events around that time, says that Murmu considered the laws in a close meeting, at the end of which he made up his mind to send them back, and said, “ No injustice will happen to me (I will not allow any injustice to happen).”
As he held out more than a year of his term as governor, many in the BJP and outside predicted the end of the road for Murmu, a two-time former BJP MLA. Sources point to the 2017 incident, saying that 64-year-old Murmu, now the NDA’s presidential candidate, and his “kalam (pen)” may be noticed as he is almost in the running for the July 18 presidential election. Ready for a sure win. Election against opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha. A victory would make Murmu the first tribal and second woman president of India.
Born in 1958, Murmu was the first girl to go to college in Uparbeda, one of the seven revenue villages of Uparbeda panchayat in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district. His father and grandfather were the traditional heads of the village council.
Murmu’s sister-in-law Sakarmani Tudu recounts that when, after school, she expressed her desire to study further – unheard of in their Santhali home – the family turned to a distant relative, a legislator, for help. “The MLA asked her to go to Bhubaneswar for further studies,” says Sakramani. Murmu’s banker daughter Itishree laughed, “And she reached Bhubaneswar without Google Maps.” A journey with few coordinates, but with determination Murmu graduated with a BA degree from Ramadevi Women’s College, now a university in Bhubaneswar.
Soon after, Murmu started working as a clerk in the Odisha Secretariat and married Shyam Charan Murmu, a bank employee. “The couple later settled in Rairangpur area of Mayurbhanj district and built a house,” says former Congress MLA Shyam Charan Hansda.
Murmu lives in the two-storey house that she built with her late husband. The entrance opens into a large living room that is fitted with plastic chairs for guests and party workers. One of the shelves holds pictures of Murmu along with metal sculptures of tribal heroes. On the walls are framed photographs of Murmu with President Ram Nath Kovind, former President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the early nineties, during the couple’s stay in Rairangpur, Murmu began teaching at the nearby Aurobindo School, remembers former Congress MLA Shyam Charan Hansda, who has been close to the family.
Dilip Kumar Giri, who works in the school, explains: “I used to be part of the administration and Draupadi ji used to teach Hindi, Oriya, Mathematics, Geography etc. to the students on small honorariums. We could see that she always wanted to help others. There was a lot of compassion in him. ,
This was the time when Murmu made his possible forays into politics.
Raj Kishore Das, Biju Janata Dal MLA from Morda constituency in Mayurbhanj district, who was then in the BJP, says, “I first saw Murmu in the early 90s when she taught at Aurobindo School. I thought, who is this educated, tribal woman who is selflessly teaching in a school? I was then the chairman of Rairangpur Notified Area Council (declared as Municipality in 2014). In those days, the BJP was trying to establish a foothold in Odisha and was looking for dedicated leaders. The Santhali have a large population in Mayurbhanj district and the party has decided to include them. But will she join in, I wondered.
It was also the time when the southern part of neighboring Bihar was in social and political turmoil over the Jharkhand Movement, some of which spread to Mayurbhanj and Rairangpur in Odisha – where Murmu was located – owning its major tribal population, Who is the cause of the state.
The residents of the city say that the battle for tribal land also had an impact on Murmu as he started working for the tribals.
Naresh Murmu, one of the founding members of the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), who was at the forefront of the state movement, and is now the working president of the International Santhali Council, says: “Adivasis in Odisha, West Bengal were a part of Jharkhand in 2000. Since forming as a separate tribal state, Bihar and Chhattisgarh all considered themselves to be ‘Jharkhandi’. And now, 22 years later, we have the possibility of having the first tribal president. We thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the tribal movement has a long way to go.
Murmu contested the councilor’s election in 1997 and won. Das recalls, “As president of the NAC, I put her in charge of sanitation work – one of the most urgent jobs, but highly neglected because not many people wanted to take it up. But Draupadi did. She owns her Maruti 800. I would come, park her in the colony and make sure that she was cleaned under her care. People took notice of her. I knew then that if she contests elections she will definitely win, even become a minister one day. And That, of course, happened.”
Murmu was twice elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly – in 2000 and 2004, when the BJP fought in alliance with the BJD – and handled the portfolios of Transport and Commerce and later Animal Husbandry and Fisheries in the Naveen Patnaik-led coalition government. . As transport minister, Das says, Murmu set up transport offices in all 58 subdivisions of Odisha, including Mayurbhanj.
A BJP politician who spoke on condition of anonymity says, “There were several factions within the party in those days. Someone will talk to him behind my back, and someone will talk to him about me. He said, ‘Whoever comes to me with your complaint, let me block him and you should do the same. This is how we will all move forward’. I was stunned by his honest politics, something which is completely missing these days.”
In 2009, she contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Mayurbhanj constituency, but lost due to the breakdown of ties between the BJD and the BJP.
The electoral setback coincided with a tumultuous period in his personal life. Over the next six years, she lost three of her closest family members – her eldest son Laxman Murmu in 2009, her younger son Sippan Murmu in 2013 and then her husband Shyam Charan Murmu in 2014 – in a series of unfortunate events.
MLA Raj Kishore Das says, “After the death of her husband, she cried continuously and went through a very bad phase. She was in great pain. She will also talk about how she lost her five-year-old daughter many years ago. We somehow managed to persuade them to take a field trip,” Das said, adding that he found solace in spiritualism and associated himself with Brahma Kumaris.
Soon after, in 2015, senior BJP leaders called for Murmu’s transfer as Jharkhand – Governor.
Given that he served as governor during both the NDA and UPA terms – with Raghubar Das and Hemant Soren as CMs respectively – Murmu had a largely non-controversial tenure between May 2015 and July 2021.
On agricultural laws, Hindi as the national language, cow urine and nationalism, among others, she largely stuck to the BJP’s line.
In a video conference on October 15, 2020, she said, “Ek Hindustani ko kam se kam apni bhasha, yani Hindi, to aani hi chahiye, saath mein hamein Hindi ka samman karna sikhna hoga (Every Indian should know their language Hindi and also respect it).”
But there were also occasions when he refused to back down.
Coming from a party that has a complicated relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru and his legacy, Murmu has freely expressed his admiration for India’s first prime minister on more than one occasion.
At the beginning of the fifth session of the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly in 2020, Murmu reminded everyone: “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said, ‘One cannot change the facts of history by turning the pictures to the wall’.” Earlier, on December 1, 2018, at the convocation of the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, Murmu had praised Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and BR Ambedkar while talking about the role of lawyers in the freedom movement and the Constitution. His contribution to the construction.
But it is on the issue of tribals, a subject she holds close to her heart, that she is known to be most expressive.
On November 24, 2018, Speaking at an international conference on financial inclusion, Governor Murmu said that even though the Jharkhand State Government (then headed by the BJP) and the Center are working to extend the benefits of banking services and other schemes to the tribals. The condition of SCs and STs remains “extremely poor”.
Murmu also called for the translation of literature on tribal languages and culture and held in high esteem Lako Bodra and Raghunath Murmu, the pioneers of the ‘Varanchiti script’ of the Ho tribes and the Ol Chiki script of the Santhali. He believed that the history of the aborigines was not well presented and needed to be “re-established”.
Those who remember his days at the Raj Bhavan say that despite his high rank, Murmu stuck to his simple lifestyle.
Principal Secretary (PS) in Jharkhand government Nitin Madan Kulkarni, who was earlier private secretary to the governor, said, “He is very humble. Once the allies accompanied him to his house in Rairangpur, but there was not enough space for the officer, so the Odisha government had to make arrangements for his stay, while Draupadi ji stayed in his house. Such was his simplicity.”
House Controller SS Parihar, who is in charge of running the Raj Bhavan, explains that when Murmu first came as governor, he had directed that only vegetarian food would be prepared in the kitchen, but exceptions for guests and his staff. Make.
Recalling an example, Parihar says: “The then Home Minister Rajnath Singh once went to the Raj Bhavan and madam came to know that he had eaten fish. So the food was prepared at a different place. But when Rajnath ji came to know that madam eats only vegetarian food, he insisted that he too would eat the same.
One of the focus areas during his rule was the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, a centrally run residential school for girls from weaker sections. “There is not a single district in Jharkhand where he has not visited Kasturba Vidyalaya and interacted with the students.”
He also opened a residential school in Odisha’s Paharpur village for children from economically weaker sections. Run by the family-run SLS Trust (lost three family members: sons Sippan and Laxman and husband Shyam Murmu), Murmu makes it a point to go to school as often as possible.
Pragya Pramita Dhal, who studies in class 9 in the school, says: “The last time Draupadi ji came here, she brought us a geometry box, a diary and a pen. He told us that if we want to be like him, we must work very hard.
The day Murmu’s candidature for the presidential election was announced, security personnel stationed outside his Rairangpur home had a hard time convincing him to meet a limited gathering. “But she didn’t listen,” says a guard. “We make her understand that you are going to be president, you should be under ban (we tried to tell her that she is going to be the next president, and she should not meet so many people). But he replied that after all, these were his people and that he owes his position to them.