D-voters: Why 1.36 lakh people in Assam can’t cast their ballot? 

  • Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
  • Updated: Mar 25, 2016 16:05 IST
The churning of illegal migrants issue in Assam led to a category of voters who can’t cast their ballot. (AP Photo)

The death of a daily wager in a detention camp for suspected foreigners in Assam’s Silchar could raise questions for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, scheduled to address a BJP rally in Karimganj on March 27.

Silchar is the hub of southern Assam’s Barak Valley, which has 15 assembly seats in three districts bordering Bangladesh.

During his 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi had said the detention camps would be closed if BJP comes to power at the Centre. He also promised citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh.

The deceased D-voter, Bulu Shabdakar, was lodged in the Silchar detention camp, not far from where Modi had made his pre-Lok Sabha poll promise. The death of the 68-year-old last week could become a rallying point for NGOs and human rights bodies to remind the Prime Minister about the plight of “Indian foreigners”.

The camps are for people caught entering Assam illegally or declared foreigners, but only a fraction are D-voters .

D-voters are people who failed to prove their Indian nationality.

Majority of 1.36 lakh D-voters, blacklisted by Election Commission since 1997, are Bengali Hindus perceived to be BJP loyalists. State agencies say many are missing.


Why D-voters can’t vote

The churning of illegal migrants issue in Assam led to a category of voters who can’t cast their ballot

By-election to Mangaldoi LS seat in 1978 reveals sudden rise in registered voters, leading to agitation against illegal migrants

In 1997, Election Commission asks Assam to remove non-citizens from electoral rolls

After revision of electoral rolls, people who could not give proof of their nationality are marked D to indicate their ‘disputed’ status

All India Displaced Bengali Coordination Committee says 6 lakh D-voters are Hindus

EC blacklists 3,70,000 D-voters, but cases of 1,99,631 referred to foreigners’ tribunals

Many are legalised; the number is trimmed to 1.36 lakh

In 2004, Gauhati HC orders D-voters be sent to detention camps until cases are settled

Assam’s Cong government appeals in SC against the 2011 order barring D-voters from participating in polls that year


Taimur R Choudhury, president of Barak Valley Bengali Literary and Cultural Society, said, “Bulu died because Modi, like chief minister Tarun Gogoi, failed to keep his promise. Gogoi, too, had played the Bengali Hindu card to help the Congress sweep the 2011 assembly poll in the Valley with 13 of the 15 seats.”

In February this year, the apex court overruled a 2011 Gauhati High Court order barring D-voters from voting if they provide documentary proof of their citizenship to the Election Commission.

“If Gogoi were honest he would have acted on a Supreme Court order and instructed officials concerned to let D-voters exercise their franchise for the first time since 1997,” Choudhury said, adding that since police and district officials are in the dark, the SC order is as good as redundant.

“If any government is serious about the D-voters, Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, must be lifted,” said Niladri Roy, a local human rights activist.

also read

Rajnath, Varun Gandhi, Smriti, Adityanath: Who will be BJP’s CM face in UP?
Show comments