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GFA President Lauds Election of Dalit Woman as Speaker of India's Parliament

by Staff
June 5, 2009
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CARROLLTON, Texas, ( -- The election of Meira Kumar, both the first woman and the first Dalit ("Untouchable") to become Speaker of the Indian Parliament, is great cause for celebration, according to Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan.

"This is a huge event for India for two reasons," Yohannan explained. "Traditionally, the most neglected people in the world are women, and the women who are treated the absolute worst are Dalit women.

"Now the most despised people in the most abused people group have a voice in one of the world's largest government bodies--the Indian Parliament."

Mrs. Kumar was unanimously elected to the powerful position when the newly elected officials took office on June 2. She was elected to her fifth term in the legislative body as a member of the Congress Party, which earned a surprising majority of the seats in the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha.

The BBC reports that political observers point out that Mrs. Kumar's election "improves the Congress Party's image as pro-woman and a supporter of the lower castes."

Mrs. Kumar represents the state of Bihar, one of India's poorest. She was India's Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment from 2004 until her recent re-election to the Lok Sabha. Prior to her political career, Mrs. Kumar was a diplomat representing India in Spain and the United Kingdom. She also served on the country's Ministry for External Affairs.

Kumar is the daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram, a well- known Dalit leader who also served as India's deputy prime minister. Her husband, Manjul, is a well-known lawyer. Mrs. Kumar immediately made it clear that she would be keeping her party's campaign promises to push India toward a secular society.

"It will be my endeavor that I am completely impartial in my conduct and I give opportunity to all the members to express their views," Mrs. Kumar said during her first press conference after being elected.

Mrs. Kumar has already spoken out in favor of a proposed civil rights amendment that would benefit those from low-caste backgrounds.

"She is already a great political force, yet it is still amazing that a Dalit woman was elected to this powerful position," Yohannan said. "Now she holds great power, so when the issues involving human rights or the downtrodden people groups come up, she will be the one to decide if the issue will be heard.

"We will be praying for her as she makes decisions that have the power to radically transform the lives of the millions of Dalits in India."

Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.

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