Mainstream

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > September 13, 2008 > Memorandum to CEC on State Assembly Elections in Chhattisgarh

Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 39

Memorandum to CEC on State Assembly Elections in Chhattisgarh

Thursday 18 September 2008

[(The following is the memorandum submitted on behalf of the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh (CPJC) to the Chief Election Commissioner on concerns regarding preparation of electoral rolls for the forthcoming State)]
Assembly elections in Chhattishgarh.

Dear Sir,

We are writing to you on behalf of the CPJC. The Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhatisgarh is a campaign group formed by individuals and organisations who are deeply concerned about the recent happenings and gross violation of human rights going on in Chhattisgarh.

We are aware that he Election Commission is in the process of preparation for the State Assembly elections which are to take place towards the end of this year. We would, through this representation, like to raise our concern regarding the preparation of electoral rolls and other matters in Dantewada and Bijapur districts of South Chhattisgarh.

As you know, in the districts of Dantewada and Bijapur many tribals have been living in government run Salwa Judum camps as IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) for the last two-to-three years. According to recent media reports, the government of Chhattisgarh claims that more than 57,000 people are living in these camps and their names are getting included in the electoral rolls for the camps. We have learnt through media reports that the government has initiated a process of including their names in the electoral rolls for the camps.

As per the reports we have received from local civil society members and fact findings done by the CPJC members, a majority of the people who were living in these relief camps have gone back to their homes in their respective villages. According to our information, the number of residents in camps is not more than 10,000.

The Government of Chhattisgarh has closed down most of Public Distribution System (PDS) shops in these villages. Therefore people have to come back to the Salwa Judum camps to buy their ration. We are told that details from the camp ration shops have been shown to prove that 57,000 people are still living in these camps. This is misleading.

We are also aware of several other discrepancies existing in the preparation of electoral rolls: many names in the voters’ list have been dropped and in some cases names of children aged 13-16 have been included. Moreover, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring States have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there.

We are concerned that while many genuine voters would be deprived of their right to vote, the free and fair nature of the elections would be affected due to these discrepancies. We request you to look into the issue and make sure that the people who have gone back to their villages get a chance to vote from their own villages and their names are included in the electoral rolls for their respective villages and not in the camps where they used to live. We also request you to look into other discrepancies in the electoral rolls.

We would also like to state our concerns about the voting rights of IDPs who have had to flee to the nearby States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa due to the atmosphere of fear in their villages in Dantewada and Bijapur for the last two-to-three years. Estimates of people who have fled to these States range from 50,000 to 1,50,000. As we have stated earlier, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring States have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of the Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there. We are afraid that this will inevitably result in fraud voting while the citizens themselves are deprived of their right to vote.

We would like to understand the arrangements the Election Commission is making so that these IDPs are able to exercise their right to vote even if they are not able to return to their homes due to the atmosphere of fear. We request that Election Commission makes special arrangements for these IDPs so that the they can exercise their franchise in Andhra Pradesh itself.

According to media reports, the Communist Party of India has also raised their objections with you on similar points. They have informed that 50 polling booths in Bijapur and 92 polling booths in Dantewada have not been inspected by the Election Commission. They feel the inspection staff have refused to do their duty, probably due to threats from the Salwa Judum. We believe the same can be performed with the help of civil society and local NGOs.

We hope that you will take cognisance of these concerns which have a serious bearing on the conduct of free and fair elections in the region and take appropriate action.

Sincerely,

Sumit Chakravartty, Vijayan M.J., Shubhranshu Chaudhary, Sridevi Panikkar, Pravin Mote
- (On behalf of the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh)

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted