Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Voter suppression in India reported; video shows BJP worker planning to bribe cops

The BJP leader had told the workers to 'deliberately create ruckus' if they saw a large number of women outside the booths on the polling day so that the women could not cast their votes and returned home.
Last Updated : 25 May 2024, 11:35 IST
Last Updated : 25 May 2024, 11:35 IST

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Police on May 2 had said that they detained a BJP worker identified as Bhuvanesh Varshneya following the surfacing of a video which shows him instigating party workers to 'deliberately create ruckus' in the booths in Muslim-dominated areas in Uttar Pradesh's Sambhal Lok Sabha constituency.

He told the workers to do so if they saw a large number of women outside the booths on polling day so that they fail to cast their votes and return home.

The saffron party leader was also heard telling the party workers to bribe the cops so that they did not act against them.

According to the police the video appeared to be old but went viral during the elections.

A senior police official had said, "We have detained Bhuvanesh Varshneya....the matter is being investigated."

In the video that had gone viral on social media, Varshneya was heard saying, "All you (party workers) have to do is to challenge a few voters....you need to have some money....create ruckus if you see a large number of women (Muslim)....don't indulge in fighting...only create ruckus so that the women return home without casting their votes."

He also said, "Give the cops between Rs 100 to Rs 500 for refreshment....keep an eye on the turnout in opposition dominated booths."

The constituency had gone to polls on May 7.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation claims that it has independently verified the video.

In another case, a video surfaced from Uttar Pradesh's Ovari in which people could be seen running out of a poll booth.

According to a report by ABC, which has not been able to trace said video back to its source, it was uncertain as to what happened inside the polling booths because voters were chased out by the police who beat them up with batons.

According to the publication, Sambhal's magistrate had said that upon investigation, it was found that a large number of voter s had gathered inside the booth due to which the authorities had asked them to step outside.

As the publication reported, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had asserted that the video was false and misleading.

However, ABC interviewed people who gave statements in contradiction to the ECI's claims.

Wasim, a local from whose home the video was shot, told the publication that he was witness to the incident when the voters were being chased out of the booths, alleging that the police officers had started beating up the women and elderly people.

Another resident named Raees Qureshi (70) told ABC said that the police and the village head were telling people to vote for the 'lotus' symbol (BJP).

According to the publication, opposition candidates also claimed that they were threatened by the BJP. One among them, Rajesh Maurya, alleged that he was harassed and threatened on the phone with physical violence and then arrest.

Another candidate named Sumitra Maurya also said that she had received threats from BJP workers starting with unknown men visiting her residence and then threats through phone calls and messages.

Ashok Lavasa, former ECI commissioner had said that it a formidable task to run elections in India which are conducted in a free and fair manner, according to ABC.

He told the publication, "When over 900 million people come to these polling stations, so many political parties are involved, where the atmosphere is so charged … nobody can deny there is no tension during the elections."

He also said, "But I think what is important is whether there is a mechanism by which these complaints are attended to."

The former ECI commissioner added, "It does bother me if people say that they are losing faith [in the ECI. The more transparency you have, the less will be the doubt that people will have."

ABC journalist row

In an earlier incident, a South Asia correspondent of ABC, Avani Dias, had on April 23, asserted that she was forced to leave India after her visa extension request was denied by the government as she was covering the Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar's death case.

Dias on X revealed that she had been reporting from Delhi since January 2022 for ABC and that the government had blocked her visa renewal request.

She wrote on X, "Last week, I had to leave India abruptly. The Modi Government told me my visa extension would be denied, saying my reporting "crossed a line". After Australian Government intervention, I got a mere two-month extension ...less than 24 hours before my flight."

Dias also wrote, "We were also told my election accreditation would not come through because of an Indian Ministry directive. We left on day one of voting in the national election in what Modi calls "the mother of democracy."

In her podcast, Looking for Modi, Dias said, "It felt too difficult to do my job in India. I was struggling to get into public events run by Modi’s party, the government wouldn’t even give me the passes I need to cover the election and the ministry left it all so late, that we were already up and ready to go."

The correspondent also said, "The Narendra Modi government has made me feel so uncomfortable that we decided to leave. There’s always a feeling of unease that this sort of backlash could come your way as a journalist in India, I’ve felt it the whole time I’ve been here, so have my colleagues from other publications."

On the other hand, Indian official sources had claimed that Dias' contention was incorrect and termed it as misleading, citing that her reports had 'crossed a line'.

Published 25 May 2024, 11:35 IST

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