Toronto : The election of Meira Kumar as India’s first woman and Dalit speaker figured in the Canadian parliament Friday, with Indian-origin MP Deepak Obhrai describing it as a ‘miracle’ of Indian democracy.
Obhrai, 58, who as the parliamentary secretary to foreign minister Lawrence Cannon is the highest-ranking Indian in the government, said: “Wednesday, Meira Kumar was elected unanimously as the speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha, the lower house in the Indian Parliament.”
With her election, he said, Kumar has joined “other female leaders of India, the likes of Indira Gandhi, current President Pratibha Patil and business leaders like the CEO of ICICI Bank, Chanda Kochhar, all of whom inspire millions of women in South Asia”.
With her Dalit background, he said, Kumar “has created another milestone, as her appointment breaks through centuries of discrimination against the Dalits in India”.
“Like all fights against social evils, the fight against barriers for women and Dalits is a work in progress. I wish to officially congratulate Ms Kumar for this stunning achievement.”
Obhrai said India has made huge strides in bettering the lot of the Dalits.
“The rise of Meira Kumar, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati and Indian Supreme Court chief justice K.G. Balakrishnan bears testimony to the fact that Dalits have come a long way in India,” Obhrai said later outside the House of Commons.
As parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister (equivalent to a minister of state in India), he is the senior-most Indian in the Canadian government.
Tanzanian-born, India-educated Obhrai has represented the Calgary East constituency in parliament since 1997.