oppn parties Burqa-Clad Voters: No Voting Without Identification

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  • PM Modi tells BJP workers that India is in for a long battle against the coronavirus and there is no scope to feel tired or defeated
  • PM Modi asks ministers to focus on exports and new areas and sectors
  • PM Modi asks ministers to prepare business continuity plan post the lifting of the lockdown
  • Corona cases in India cross 4000 and the death toll stands at 124
  • The government decides to double the testing of corona suspects from 10000 now to 20000 in the next three days
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  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
26 nurses and 3 doctors test positive for COVID-19 at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai, facility cordoned off, no entry or exit permitted from the hospital
oppn parties
Burqa-Clad Voters: No Voting Without Identification

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2017-03-06 22:52:20

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The BJP has demanded that women police officers be deployed in UP to identify burqa-clad women before they are allowed to cast their votes. Since the demand has come from the BJP, it will obviously be viewed as anti-Muslim, more so because the demand is made only for burqa-clad women whereas many Hindu women also turn up at polling booths with their face covered, as per custom in several parts of India. But this is one area of voting that needs to be seriously addressed.

The BJP demand for women police officers to identify voters also shows a complete lack of knowledge of election rules. The police or other Central forces are deployed at polling booths only for security and to prevent disturbances. They have no authority to identify voters. The whole election process is completely in the hands of the Election Commission. Since few officers in the booths are women, the rules mandate that in case of doubt, any local woman can be asked to identify the voter as per her Voter ID. There is no provision to compulsorily check all veiled women.

Logically, there should be no resistance to establishing identity by lifting the veil in front of a woman. It can be done in front of a male polling officer too, if one goes by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of having Voter ID card pictures taken in burqas. Denying Muslim women the privilege of being photographed in burqas with face covered, the Supreme Court had categorically said then that “if you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in identification of voters.”

So if Muslim or other women who wear veils for religious or social reasons can have their photos taken for the Voter ID card by male photographers and then have them handled by male officers for preparation of photo electoral rolls and Voter Identification Slips, they should have no qualms about lifting the veil at polling stations to identify themselves. It goes without saying that an unidentified voter cannot be allowed to cast her vote. The Voter ID card is an important identity document needed by all Indian citizens. One cannot get a Voter ID card made and then go to the booth in a burqa and deny to be identified. The lead picture with this story shows women in burqas flashing their Voter ID cards in which their faces can be clearly seen. So if they can flash their photos in public, why resist identifying themselves privately in front of a single polling official, male or female?

Further, religious rules, if applied, must be applied to all and uniformly. Muslim women standing for elections have posters printed with their face prominently exposed. Why not have their pictures on the posters in a burqa too. Then the process of having unidentified lawmakers elected by unidentified voters will be well and truly complete. Really, this whole thing about this religion prevents that or that religion prevents this is against the spirit of rule of law. The Supreme Court has said in many of its judgments that whenever religious practices come in conflict with the law of the land, the latter will always prevail. So it should be in case of burqa-clad or otherwise veiled women voters. They should identify themselves if challenged and religion or custom should not be an excuse to decline. If they decline to establish their identity, they should not be allowed to vote.