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Election Commission is right to call EVM hackathon 'a motivated slugfest'

File photo: EVM. Photograph:( WION )

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India Jan 23, 2019, 12.12 PM (IST) Written By: Lalit Shastri

Election Commission of India has blasted the uncorroborated tongue in cheek allegation by Syed Shuja, a self styled cyber expert seeking asylum in the United States, who showed up on Skype to address a press conference in London on Monday and hurled the wild charge that the 2014 parliamentary elections in India were rigged by hacking the electronic voting machines (EVMs). He didn’t stop at that and went on to allege that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, held after demonetisation, also were rigged in favour of the BJP.

About the Delhi Assembly election, that brought the Aam Aadmi Party to power with a historic mandate, Shuja said that his team could intercept low-frequency communication and reverse the Delhi results. Otherwise, the BJP would have swept these polls by hacking the EVMs, he said adding that low-frequency signals to rig the just concluded Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan also were “successfully intercepted” and as a result, the BJP lost power in these States.

ECI has lodged an FIR against Shuja. The election body has also issued a statement to counter what it has described as a “motivated controversy”.  ECI has placed on record the testimony of the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) members - Prof D T Shahani, Prof Emeritus IIT Delhi and Prof Rajat Moona, Director IIT Bhilai and Prof D K Sharma, Prof Emeritus IIT Bombay (Mumbai), who have have reconfirmed to the ECI that the ECI-EVMs are stand-alone machines designed to connect only amongst ECI-EVM units (Ballot Unit, Control Unit and VVPAT) through cables that remain in full public view.

There is no mechanism in ECI-EVMs to communicate with any device through wireless communication on any Radio Frequency. All versions of ECI-EVMs are regularly and rigorously tested against low to high wireless frequencies. These tests include and go beyond the standard tests specified for electronic equipment. ECI-EVMs are regularly tested for proper functioning under all kind of operating conditions. ECI-EVMs are also regularly tested for code authentication and verification.

Meanwhile, in London, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) has distanced itself from the press conference that was jointly organised by the Indian Journalists’ Association (Europe) and FPA. A day after the presser, FPA tweeted: The Foreign Press Association strongly disassociates itself with any claims made by the speaker Syed Shuja during the #IJA event in London yesterday. Not one of the masked speaker’s accusations have so far been corroborated.

Italian Journalist in London, Deborah Bonetti, who writes for an Italian newspaper and is Director of the Foreign Press Association, who sat through the London press meet as a co-host later said in a tweet: “The speaker at yesterday’s event #IJA did not follow up his claims with any proof. He was not credible and should not have been given a platform”.

The Congress party also has chosen to distance itself from the London press conference. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that party senior Kapil Sibal, who was present at this event had been invited by a journalist and was not there to represent the Congress party.

When journalists present at the London presser asked Shuja whether or not he had evidence to corroborate his allegations, each time his reply was in the negative. At the fag-end of the whole exercise, one of the media-persons even thanked Shuja for “entertaining” them. The journalists repeatedly questioned him about his agenda and his stock reply was that he was bothered about protecting democracy in India. On being asked why it took him so long to raise the EVM hacking issue, Shuja talked of raising the matter with a TV personality and said that he had chosen to remain silent.  

He also told media-persons that the high profile Bangalore-based journalist Gauri Lankesh was in touch with him but was murdered before she could publish a news item on the “hacking of EVMs”.  He even went on to make the ridiculous charge, without a shred of evidence, that late Union Minister Gopinath Munde was killed as he was aware of the hacking of EVMs during the 2014 polls.

Shuja deserves to be hauled up for what he has blurted out is obviously motivated towards undermining India's democracy and its robust electoral system, which is globally recognised and respected. He has also made a bizarre attempt to tarnish the image of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the parliamentary election. The ECI has lodged a criminal complaint against him and now he will be dealt with under the law. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Lalit Shastri

Lalit Shastri is an Indian journalist, editor, environmentalist and a wildlife film maker

Story highlights

The self-proclaimed cyber expert deserves to be hauled up for what he has blurted out is obviously motivated towards undermining India's democracy and its robust electoral system