Doubts over EVM manipulation surfaced more than once during the 2019 Loksabha elections, more especially after strong rooms etc storing the macjines were found vulnerable, complaints of tampering kept pouring in. The Election Commission of India’s rather vague responses did not clear doubts, made things worse.
Now Quit India Day, August 9, will be a day of protest to demand that EVMs Quit India.‘EVM Bharat Chodo, DeshBachaoaurLoktantraBachao’ (EVM leave India, Save India, Save Democracy) is the call given. On Wednesday, a press conference was organised by the ‘EVM VirodhiRashtriya Jan Andolan’ at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi. The body has decided to hold a protest march on August 9, the Quit India Movement Day, from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar under the title. The protest, which will start at 11.00 am, will be attended by several EVM experts, activists and political leaders like Sharad Yadav, Sanjay Singh, Danish Ali among others.
Speakers at the press conference included- Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) president N Sai Balaji, one of the founders of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) Shabnam Hashmi, Sanjay from the SamajwadiSamagam, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, Annie Raja and National Alliance of People’s Movement’s (NAPM) convener Madhuresh Kumar.
The unprecedented victory of the Modi government in the 2019 elections, with multiple reports of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioning once again raised questions over the credibility of EVMs and brought together activists, academicians and civil rights organisations to demand for bringing back the paper ballot system. The protest is being organised for the same.
At the press conference, JNUSU president Balajisaid that this protest is being held on the Quit India Movement Day because on this day, eight decades ago, Mahatma Gandhi had given a nationwide clarion call to tell the British to leave India. Similarly, they will be demanding the removal of EVMs from India, the use of which has jeopardized our democracy. He also gave instances of EVM malfunctioning in the 2019 elections and the lackadaisical approach by the Election Commission (EC). He gave reference of the RTI filed by journalist Poonam Agarwal from The Quint to get the GPS data of the EVM transporting vehicles, as was mandated by the ECI. However, the EC blatantly said that they do not have any such information. Shockingly, the RTI reply also revealed that ECI didn’t have data on the number of VVPAT slips counted in the 2019 elections.
Interestingly, Balaji also raised the controversy of the 2017 Uttarakhand elections during which there were reports of tender being given to a private company to handle the chip and maintain the EVMs. Stating that the ECI didn’t have its own employees to handle the elections of a small state like Uttarakhand, Balaji raised an intriguing question by asking, “how can we then believe that the 2019 elections weren’t contractual?” Further, he said that the ballot system is much more transparent and if “you (BJP) can ethically win through the EVMs, then you will win even if the ballot system is in place. Why is BJP suddenly in support of EVM, despite it strongly opposing it prior to 2012?”
Annie Raja said that EVMs do not satisfy a voter as s/he remains unsure whether the vote is gone to the right person and this brings a lot of disappointment to the citizens. She also said that the unauthorized handling of EVMs, along with reports of missing machines, are clearly an evidence that the party has resorted to some malpractices. She further added, “ECI has fallen to an all-time low.” She finally appealed to “Go back to ballot to safeguard our participatory democracy.”
Madhuresh of NAPM said, “Since the time EVMs have come, we don’t know who gets the vote. Also, the conduct of ECI is highly compromising. It is clearly working for the BJP.” Shabnam from ANHAD said, “EVM manipulation has been the most blatant in this election.”
Stating that their stand against EVM is not because a particular political party has come to power, but because there is a serious danger to our democracy and against our Constitutional rights, Balaji appealed to the citizens and the media to take part in the August 9 protest and fight for safeguarding our democracy.
The entire press conference can be watched here.
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