The Indian Journalist Association (IJA) held an event on January 21, 2019, with an aim to demonstrate how the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in India could be hacked.
The event was organised by the Europe Chapter of IJA in London. The live press began at 5:30 pm IST and was carried out by a US-based cyber expert who identified himself as Shuja Ahmed. He claimed that he was part of Electronic Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) which designed and developed EVMs used in India. Shuja Ahmed who participated in the press conference through Skype with his face masked, also said that he was attacked four days ago.
Claiming to part of a team which worked with ECIL in 2014, he said that the BJP was tampering with the EVMs and that that he had tried to meet a BJP leader, to extort money from him over this. He said as a result of that, his team members were killed in a staged riot. Ahmed had no evidence to back this claim. However, he said that after his team were killed, he received asylum in the US.
He also made another astonishing claim that the BJP leader Gopinath Munde was killed because he came to know about the rigging of elections using the EVMs and was going to go public with it. Munde was killed in a road accident on 3 June 2014. He also said that Thanzil Ahmed, the officer who was investigating Munde’s death, was killed as he was planning to file an FIR regarding it. NCP leader and Gopinath Munde’s nephew Dhananjay Munde has now demanded a probe by R&AW or a Supreme Court judge into the death of his uncle after these allegations were made by Shuja.
Shuja also said that the EVM could be tampered using low-frequency signals modulator. He also claimed that the modulator was of “military grade” and was sold to Reliance between 2012-2014. He also claimed that it was the Mukesh Ambani company that bought the modulators and provided it to the BJP but he did not have any evidence to substantiate the same. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that they are examining their legal options since the press conference in London.
India stopped using ballot papers in 2004 and had since switched to EVMs but many including opposition parties, have questioned the reliability of EVMs. In the past, BJP leader LK Advani had raised doubts about EVMs in the past and another BJP leader G V L Narasimha Rao, had written a book questioning the reliability of EVMs.Following the AAP demonstration in June 2017, the ECI challenged political parties to demonstrate how the machines can be tampered at its headquarters, with the machines they provide.
Only two parties attended the event, the Nationalist Congress Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist). As of now, Trinamool Congress (TNC) Leader Mamata Banerjee has announced the formation of a four-member committee of opposition leaders to evaluate the functioning of EVMs on January 18, 2019. The committee featuring the Congress’ Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Chandra Mishra and Delhi CM and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, was announced after the mega rally organised by the TNC. The constant complaints made by the opposition has forced the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make it mandatory for every EVM to be attached to Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines and to ensure that there is no tampering.
The only political leader to attend the London press conference was Kapil Sibal of the Congress party however the party’s spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, has distanced the party from the event. The ECI in response to the press conference in London, saying that it was not aware of the event and reiterated its previous stand that the EVMs can never be tampered.