The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) demand for examining burqa-clad women voters has apparently not gone down well with some Muslim organisations, who have accused the saffron party of deliberately indulging in ‘polarisation politics’.
Mahila Muslim Personal Law Board Chairperson Shaista Amber said, "Till now, the election and voting process have been rather smooth, and the Election Commission deserves a round of applause for this. However, in a bid to polarise the votes in the sixth and seventh phase, the BJP has now come up with this strange demand.”
In a letter to the Election Commission on Thursday, the BJP demanded deployment of women force at polling booths to examine the identity of burqa-clad female electorate.
“The BJP demands that to establish the identity of burqa-clad female voters in the sixth and seventh phase of the UP polls, women police and central paramilitary forces be posted at sensitive and hyper-sensitive polling booths,” the party said.
Shaista, however, said this act of the BJP smacked of its ‘sick mentality’.
"Whether a woman is wearing burqa or ghoonghat, no one has the right to offend her womanhood and dignity," she said.
BJP leaders JPS Rathore and Kuldeep Pati Tripathi said in their letter to the EC that a large number of burqa-clad women exercise their franchise and there was a possibility of false voting.
"Adequate deployment of female police would ensure proper checking of women voters, and at the same time, minimising incidents of bogus voting," they said.
"This is a deliberate tactic of the BJP to polarise the votes. We would not tolerate even an iota of insult to burqa," said Shia Personal Law Board spokesperson Yassob Abbas.
He said even non-Muslim women living in villages wear 'pallu'.
"Will the pallu (of non-Muslim women) be removed to check and verify their identity?" he asked, adding, "It is better not to do any politics over burqa".
Senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali said, "Ever since the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections have started, a conscious attempt has been made to target Muslim women."
"It started with triple talaq, which has fallen flat on the face of the BJP," he said.
He also said that as per the laid down provisions of law, a voter is allowed to cast his or her vote only after the poll official cross-checks and verifies the Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) card.
"I think that there is a planned attempt to keep Muslim women voters away from voting," he said.
The BJP, however, has defended its demand stating that it was aimed at preventing bogus voting in the last two phases of the Assembly polls.
Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj justify demand
BJP MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath said that the demand is justified because ‘some radical Muslim men don’t allow the women to exercise their franchise and misuse their right’.
“Our doubt is not about the use of burqa, we are demanding women force so that no can misuse one's right. We are conduct of free and fair elections. The BJP is committed for women empowerment. At some places, especially in the western (Uttar Pradesh), some Muslim women voters were not allowed to vote. To stop the misuse of burqa, we are demanding this,” he said.
“In past, we have seen how people misused burqa. This is not polarisation. The BJP will emerge victorious,” he added.
When asked if he also agreed to the demand for scrutiny of women who cover their head and often their face using the sari, he replied, “There is a difference between ghunghat and burqa. In ghunghat, you can at least recognise the person whereas in case of burqa, it is very easy to misuse it.”
Another controversial BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj echoed the same view.
“I have received many complaints. The BJP has taken a right step. Burqa is misused, not by Muslims, even Hindu men also misuse burqa,” he said.
Muslims make up around 19-20 per cent of UP's population of nearly 200 million (20 crore). Out of 403 assembly seats, there are nearly 120 seats where the percentage od Muslim voters is more than 20 per cent (Muslim-dominated seats) and in certain parts of eastern UP, their population is up to 27 per cent.
A large number of constituencies going to polls in the last two rounds on March 4 and 8 fall in Muslim-dominated districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.