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Learning English - Words in the News
25 July, 2007 - Published 16:47 GMT
India gets first woman president since independence
India's first female president since independence
Pratibha Patil

India has sworn in Pratibha Patil as its first woman president since it gained independence from British rule sixty years ago. The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports from the capital Delhi, where the ceremony took place:

Listen to the story

At a colourful and impressive ceremony in the Indian parliament, Pratibha Patil was sworn in as India's thirteenth president by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the first woman to assume the post. Earlier she received a guard of honour and was driven to parliament in a ceremonial procession accompanied by soldiers mounted on horses.

Speaking to the dignitaries gathered before her, President Patil paid tributes to those who had fought for her country's independence and said that India's democracy was a symbol of hope for the rest of the world. As president her role will be largely ceremonial; real power rests with the Prime Minister - although Mrs Patil will be commander-in-chief of one of the world's largest armed forces.

She was a surprise choice for the top job. Her critics say she lacks political stature and she courted controversy when she suggested that Indian women were forced to wear the veil to protect themselves from Muslim invaders - comments she was later forced to retract. But her supporters say she will be a role model for millions of Indian women who still face widespread discrimination.

Sanjoy Majumder, BBC News, Delhi

Listen to the words

was sworn in
made a formal promise to be honest or loyal in her official job

to assume the post
to start doing the job (here, being president)

a guard of honour
a group of people, usually soldiers, who stand in rows at a special occasion to show respect to someone important

to do with formal, often traditional, acts performed on important occasions

a surprise choice
an unexpected winner

lacks political stature
isn't seen as someone who has power or influence in politics

courted controversy
risked having a lot of people disagree with her

to retract
to take back, to say that you no longer agree with something you said previously

a role model
a person who other people admire and want to act like or copy

widespread discrimination
a lot of people being treated differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which others are treated, because of their skin colour, religion, sex, etc.

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