Bengaluru: thousands of Christian and Muslim names removed from electoral rolls
by Nirmala Carvalho

Upon learning of the matter, the local archdiocese sent a message to the Election Commission of Karnataka, the BJP-led southern state where elections are scheduled in May. Out of over 9,000 names, at least 8,000 have disappeared in constituencies where mostly minorities vote. For spokesman Kanthraj, this is clear political tampering.

Bengaluru (AsiaNews) - "We note with great dismay the news that has been brought to our attention about the deletion of names from the electoral rolls after their publication in the polling stations of the Shivajinagar constituency in Bengaluru. Upon careful examination and verification, we have found that a large number of names belonging to our Christian community are missing'. 

These are the words of J. A. Kanthraj, Public Relations Officer of the Archdiocese of Bengaluru, capital of the southern state of Karnataka, after the names of several thousand voters belonging to religious minorities were removed from the electoral rolls.

"Out of a total of 9,195 names, about 8,000 are missing, including voters belonging to the recognised tribes and castes and the Muslim community. It is unbelievable that out of 193 polling stations, 91 have been selectively chosen on the basis of where the minorities reside,' the statement submitted on 15 February to the head of the State Election Commission continues. 

In Karnataka, currently led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), local elections are scheduled for May, and Christian leaders suspect that the elimination of the names of people belonging to religious minorities is part of the party's strategy to maintain power:

'We fear that many constituencies in the city have been tampered with with impunity. If such misdeeds are allowed to continue unchecked, citizens' trust in the electoral process will be shattered and devastated beyond repair,' the archdiocese's message continues. 

For Kanthraj, there is no doubt: this is clear manipulation to prevent Christians and Muslims from voting in the upcoming elections. The spokesman added that the Chief Voter responded to the archdiocese's appeal by suggesting that campaigns be organised in all Bengaluru constituencies so that people can find out if their names have been removed from the electoral roll. The archdiocese has undertaken such a campaign in all parishes, Kanthraj explained.

Rizwan Arshad, the opposition Congress party MP from Shivajinagar constituency, was also shocked by the matter. 'This is a blatant attempt by the BJP to rob minorities of their fundamental right to vote,' he said. On 9 February, Arshad had filed a written petition in the Karnataka High Court against the political plot to undermine the minorities' right to vote. 

Legal experts and minority representatives commented, saying that since the BJP came to power in 2014 there have been repeated abuses against religious minorities by election bureaucrats.