EVM tampering worse than booth capturing: Open Letter

The 'EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan' has said that the "very real possibility" of EVM tampering endangers the "crucial dimension" of Indian democracy. (AFP Photo)

Claiming that the "depth and scale" of BJP victories in Hindi heartland states raises alarm bells about tampering of electronic voting machines, anti-EVM activists on Thursday urged Opposition parties to take up a campaign to return to ballot papers during elections.

In an open letter to political parties, the 'EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan' has said that the "very real possibility" of EVM tampering endangers the "crucial dimension" of Indian democracy, which is peoples' right to free and fair voting.

Describing EVM tampering as "worse than booth capturing", it said such exercise with compromised machines would give "far greater legitimacy, as it would be invisible, technology-driven and could steal peoples' mandate without being discovered".

Endorsed by several people, including former Navy chiefs Admiral L Ramdas and Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Medha Patkar, Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, writer-activist Anand Teltumbde and filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, the letter said cited that controversies about storage of EVMs, missing and replaced EVMs and its malfunctioning suggests that there is an "unimaginable scale of possibility of manipulation".

"If we ignore the EVM factor completely (and confining oneself only to political and organisational factors while analysing Lok Sabha results), we are sure to arrive at a wrong conclusion for course correction," the letter said.

It said, "the depth and scale of BJP victories in the Hindi heartland and total elimination of major opponents should raise alarm bells about the real possibility of EVM tampering. It was encouraging to see how Opposition parties came together since last October to demand a return to ballot papers or counting of all VVPAT slips," it said.

However, it lamented that the parties did not pursue it consistently by building a mass campaign and it has now "proved beyond doubt that the Opposition strategy so far on EVMs of hesitant petitioning of Election Commission and Supreme Court without building mass struggle has failed miserably".

It said the hesitation within the Opposition, "driven by the fear" they would be perceived as already defeated if they talked about EVM manipulation, "should no longer deter them as they have already been so squarely rooted".

Arguing that the EVM tampering can "manufacture a distorted political narrative, demoralise the opponents and derail united strategies", it said it was important in a democracy that the voter trust the final verdict of the elections. "The individual voter cannot be asked to unthinkingly trust the Election Commission and the EVM". 

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