What happens when in the world’s largest democracy, at the heart of which is ‘a commitment to hold regular, free and fair elections‘, voters’ names go missing from voter lists?
The right to vote is at the heart of a democratic political system, where the people decide whom to elect as its leaders. Without this right secured, it cannot be called a ‘democracy’.
Cases of missing voters is well-known in the hinterlands of India…. but with no official records (well, obviously) of the same. What is interesting is that these are often caste-specific deletions, though this time, the cases we found, were mainly targeted at women belonging to Self-Help Groups, since many of them are looking to actively participate in the upcoming Panchayat elections this time.
In at least 10 cases (read Blocks) that I am aware of, names of women belonging to Self-Help Groups were deleted from voter lists, but they managed to protest and get the lists fixed, in some cases even getting the front line bureaucrats to admit to manipulating the lists upon pressure from the local leaders. However, in others, names of voters still stand missing, with villagers too scared to do anything about it.
The right to vote is the first step towards ensuring free and fair elections, and the most basic right any citizen of a democratic country can have. If this right is at risk, it’s a scary prospect for the future of democracy in India.