A plea to the Election Commission

Election Commission should ban political parties that directly or indirectly organise communal riots and reap communal votes to win elections

India’s National Election Commission should institutionalize a rule not to let any political party win elections at any level, through the overt or covert use of communal riots, political murders and other violent and corrupt practices. After 60 years, the nation should be weaned from its communal baggage and a reform in people’s thinking could only come through a focused and identifiable initiative by the National Election Commission, which has hitherto been only obsessed only by its bureaucratic and literalist ‘rights and duties approach. There cannot be any confusion that in any democratic system of governance, an independent and neutral Election Commission forms the most important and basic instrument that ensures free and fair election by dutifully recording peoples mandate. In this age of communication, and relative political awareness of the voting people, the role of violence has remained one of the most damaging blot on Indian democracy. People are herded like cattle to the polling both, under various pressures. The most visible and criminal practice is to organise a good sized communal riot and get the enraged people to vote in the election, out of fear and /or sense of revenge. The most outrageous face of this ‘riots-for-elections’ scenario, is the flexibility available to the riots organizers, to either threaten a class of voters to vote in their favour, by first attacking them and then coming around offering relief and security in exchange for block voting in their favour. Or straightforward curry favour with the aggressors themselves, for facilitating them to organise and perpetrate a riot in which people are cold-bloodedly murdered; their properties torched; the womenfolk raped and then burned alive. It is the classic example of local goonda’s collecting hafta to guarantee mohalla’s so-called security from real or fictitious or even specially created and resurrected ‘communal’ enemies.

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Chief Election Commissioner should appoint a study group under its own jurisdiction, to research and put on record, the sinister and criminal connections between elections and communal riots, going back to all 60 long years of Indian independence. Case studies should be done to bring out the criminal intent of this debilitating and cancerous disease. India is on the threshold of a new beginning around progress and economic development. People should now focus on the performance part of political parties rather than their convenient relapse to the gory past election practices, giving them undeserved clout and victories.

A clear example of the how organised riot had benefited Shiv Sena come to power in Maharashtra is not distant history. Now that people are clamoring for justice, as per the recommendation of Sri Krishna Commission report, and Supreme Court has intervened to press for justice in Bombay Riots, where over 1000 people died, the chief perpetrators of the riots, by their own admission as well as clear evidence as recorded by Sri Krishna Commission, are in panic and again coming out with the war cry that ‘Hindus will hang’. ( http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070021867&ch=8/8/2007%208:25:00%20AM ; ‘Hindus will hang, warns Sena’).

It is not that Hindus or Muslims that will hang. It is the criminals that will be hanged. The wheels of justice, after 60 years of stupor, have started moving. Election Commission should be part and parcel of this reform movement, to do justice to the electorate and ensure a future of dignity for the prospects of democracy in India.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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