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  • Electoral Exclusion of Muslims Continues to Plague Indian Democracy

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    This analysis of electoral data from the Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer’s website and the single-person household estimates from the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, New Delhi shows that nearly one quarter of Muslim adults in Karnataka were out of the electoral rolls. Overall, about 15% of all adults were not listed in the voter lists in Karnataka. Evidence of non-listing of Muslim electorate in large proportions is found in other states as well. The lack of consistent efforts to enroll all eligible adults by the electoral institutional structures enables political parties to achieve undemocratic and unethical goals.

    The Sachar Committee Report (GoI 2006) was probably the most widely discussed and debated government-sponsored fact-finding report of 21st century India. Its uniqueness was that it studied and analysed the largest religious minority, Muslims, in comparison with other socio-religious groups. The condition of Muslims was said to be deteriorating to the levels of the Scheduled Caste (SC) community that had been historically oppressed; in a few cases, the outcome indicators were lower than those of this comparative group. The report highlighted the path through which the relative deprivation of the Muslims was deepening, and it pointed towards a systemic bias against them that existed in governance, in economic, social, and political (discourses) institutions, as well as in day-to-day decision-making.

    Yet, there was consolation in the belief that democratically established institutions, special purpose institutions, regulatory mechanisms, private sector, and civil society organisations function on the principle of equality and equal access. Therefore, public confidence in such institutions was higher than in purely government and political organisations. However, this article suggests that most of such extra-government institutions also behave as if they are extended departments of the government structure and carry similar, if not the same, levels of institutional biases against the minorities, especially Muslims, in India.

    It is no wonder then that deprivation in the parameters defining human development—such as in literacy, dropout rates, malnutrition, immunisation, development credit, organised sector employment, gender empowerment and even access to many publicly provided welfare and income-augmenting programmes and schemes—is high among Muslims. For example, Muslims have the least access to development credit (Shariff 2016) and they do not even show up in the national rural employment schemes (GoI 2006: 123–36). They face extraordinary hurdles in accessing targeted welfare benefits as they are often asked to provide a “minority certificate” which does not exist in the administrative system anywhere in India.[1] Shariff (2016) discusses such situations under which the Muslims in India survive and prosper.

    Structure of Political Disempowerment

    India often claims to be world’s largest democracy, and rightly so. Imagine over two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population exercising franchise in every nook and corner of the country. It is commended and even treated as a national feat.

    Yet, the empirical analysis presented in this article brings to light a dimension which has hitherto only been vaguely suspected. It is likely that over 15% of all adults are either left out or excluded from voting lists in India. There is a strong empirical indication, as described below, that this percentage is much higher among Muslims.

    It is no secret that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has an aggressive anti-Muslim stance. The culmination of such an ideology is the party’s policy of not fielding Muslim candidates in the assembly and the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP did not field any Muslim candidates in the recently concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and the North East (Rehman 2018). The data generated from the electoral records suggests that the lack of consistent efforts to enroll all eligible adults by the electoral institutional structures enables political parties to achieve undemocratic and unethical goals.

    Indeed, it is a surprise to find that a slow but steady process is ongoing through which the minorities are being disenfranchised and politically excluded. The empirical and evidence-based research methodology used in this article suggests that a substantially large number (over one-third, often up to half) of them do not vote due to not being listed in appropriate voter lists at the level of the constituencies. This is not to speak only of voters in Assam as compared to those in Karnataka, but similar indicative evidence has emerged from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh.

    Understandably, similar exclusion may also be faced by other communities, especially the lower caste Hindus. However, isolating electoral enrollment data according to castes and sub-castes of Hindus is next to impossible; notwithstanding the recent caste census that was undertaken, but after which, data was never released. Yet, as a comparison group, it was possible to estimate excluded shares of adults for a group “other than Muslims” or the “All Others” category. This latter group consists of all Hindus, including the SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), and other minorities, who have a small share in the population.

    Methods and Material—Data Mining, Collation and Analysis

    The Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy (CRDDP), a New Delhi-based policy institution with expertise in empirical data analytics, explored the website[2] of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka state to find out data availability with respect to the voters. The CRDDP used the data mining protocols to access and extract the publicly available resources for all 224 legislative constituencies in Karnataka and create separate data files.[3] This task was pursued mainly in the context of assembly elections in Karnataka scheduled in May 2018. Using the data mining protocols, it was possible to extract the name, age, house number and address, all tagged on with the voters’ booth-level identity in a manner that it was possible to visit, meet, and directly interact with the actual individuals whose names were missing from the voter list.

    The procedures used were labour-intensive and often meticulous matching of individual cases was necessary. Identification of households was made possible by the cost-effective access to and transformation of electoral records through IT (information technology) programs (conversion from image to text format, translation from Kannada to English, programs to identify location based on voter and guardian names). The data uploaded on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website in February 2018 was not in usable format. Advanced programming was required to convert data from PDF to Word and Excel formats. Besides, all written matter was found to be in Kannada and had to be programmed and converted to English in a readable format.

    This large amount of data pertains to over 50 million voters residing in about 56,696 voting booth—defined localities, 224 constituencies, and 30 districts of Karnataka. Data was converted into text files and cleaned before creating a separate database. It was further translated through special programs to identify and create exclusive data files consisting of households wherein the fathers’ names were matched with those of the sons and daughters. When a voter and his/her father had a (unique) Muslim name, they were categorised as Muslims, or else they were grouped in another category labelled as “All Others.” Due to unique names that Muslims generally have, it was easy to use the above-stated methodology and isolate households with missing voters[4] into two categories of “Muslims” and “All Others.” The objective of this exercise was to find out systematic differentials, if any, between these two groups with respect to the share of adults who did not find a place in the voter list.

    An unusually large number (estimated 1.2 million or more, see below) of Muslim adults’ names were not in the voter list in Karnataka as of March 2018. The list was last updated in February 2018. Surely, over 1.2 million Muslim adults in Karnataka would not have been able to vote during the assembly elections which recently concluded in May 2018. About 12% of all other adults in Karnataka would not have been able to vote as well.

    Analysis of Electoral Data Extracted from the Website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka 

    From the exclusive data generated using the electoral listing; it was possible to isolate single-person voter households. The single-person voter households constituted 40%–50% of all households. Such households contained at least one registered voter, but one can easily imagine that one or more adults from these households would be unregistered eligible adults.

    According to the Census of India 2011, only 4.7% of all households in Karnataka are single-person households and have one registered voter.[5] The election office data was analysed using the 56,696 booth-level IDs in the state of Karnataka.[6] Through the CRDDP’s methodology, it is possible (in each booth) to identify households containing one or more adults who are not listed in the voter list. The criteria used shows high percentage of single-voter households. Usually, the definition of a household entails the presence of two adults who are married to each other. This suggests that most of the single-voter households identified from the electoral database must contain one or more other adults who have not been listed as voters in the booth-level voter list.

    Data extracted from the above procedures for a sample of 25 constituencies of Karnataka[7] is presented in Table 2 and Table 3. All the selected constituencies contain at least 10% of households belonging to the Muslim community.

    The average of the excluded households for all the 25 constituencies has worked out to be 54.3% of Muslim Households (Table 1) whereas this percentage is 30.6% for the All Others category (Table 2). One can, therefore, find a difference of 24 percentage points between the voter-excluded households of Muslims and All Others. It is important to note that there is some consistency in such differentials amongst all constituencies. For example, there is no constituency where the share of excluded voters for All Others category is higher than the comparative group of Muslims (Table 3).

    Through this analysis, it is possible to conclude that the exclusion of Muslim voters from the voter list is disproportionately high and substantially higher than similar exclusion among the comparison group, All Others, in Karnataka.

     

    Table 1: Identification of Households (HH) with One or More Unregistered ‘Muslim’ Adults in Specified Constituencies in Karnataka (March 2018)
    All Households Muslim Households
    S No

     

    Name of Assembly Constituency Total Households (HHs)

    (a)

    Expected

    Single Person HHs*

    (b)

    Actual

    Single Person HHs

    (c)

    Additional Identified

    Single

    Voter

    HHs

    (d) = (c) – (b)

    Muslim

    HHs (e)

    Expected Single Person HHs *

    (f)

    Actual

    Single Person HHs

    (g)

    Additional Identified

    Single

    Voter

    HHs

    (h) = (g) – (f)

    % Additional single Voter HHs to Total MuslimHHs

    (j) = (h)/(a) *(100)

    1 Haveri 47,541 2,234 17,118 14,884 6,140 289 3,664 3,375 55.0
    2 Nargund 44,520 2,092 15,672 13,580 5,215 245 3,078 2,833 54.3
    3 Navalgund 63,555 2,987 26,159 23,172 8,042 378 5,196 4,818 59.9
    4 Ron 52,259 2,456 19,744 17,288 6,001 282 3,664 3,382 56.4
    5 Hadagali 41,075 1,931 16,726 14,795 4,368 205 2,792 2,587 59.2
    6 Kundgol 38,166 1,794 13,426 11,632 5,209 245 2,971 2,726 52.3
    7 Byadgi 51,606 2,425 16,678 14,253 6,526 307 3,543 3,236 49.6
    8 Harapanahalli 49,654 2,334 16,657 14,323 6,614 311 3,656 3,345 50.6
    9 Kittur 55,556 2,611 22,337 19,726 6,348 298 3,942 3,644 57.4
    10 Ramdurg 56,941 2,676 26,407 23,731 7,455 350 5,035 4,685 62.8
    11 Devara Hippargi 36,560 1,718 13,097 11,379 6,527 307 3,633 3,326 51.0
    12 Mudhol 45,426 2,135 17,134 14,999 6,285 295 3,675 3,380 53.8
    13 Devanahalli 52,928 2,488 17,617 15,129 5,488 258 3,007 2,749 50.1
    14 Sakaleshpur 51,261 2,409 16,537 14,128 5,249 247 2,811 2,564 48.9
    15 Basavana Bagevadi 26,779 1,259 11,099 9,840 4,250 200 2,583 2,383 56.1
    16 Kampli 50,703 2,383 20,580 18,197 5,463 257 3,337 3,080 56.4
    17 Bangarapet 49,672 2,335 17,364 15,029 6,806 320 3,709 3,389 49.8
    18 Sringeri 51,534 2,422 16,529 14,107 5,591 263 2,915 2,652 47.4
    19 Saundatti 58,311 2,741 23,346 20,605 6,891 324 4,104 3,780 54.9
    20 Kushtagi 50,159 2,357 20,338 17,981 5,406 254 3,251 2,997 55.4
    21 Karwar 57,719 2,713 27,948 25,235 5,942 279 4,042 3,763 63.3
    22 Ranebennur 55,001 2,585 22,764 20,179 7,617 358 4,577 4,219 55.4
    23 Hirekerur 42,261 1,986 14,179 12,193 6,012 283 3,125 2,842 47.3
    24 Arsikere 55,880 2,626 17,437 14,811 5,929 279 2,980 2,701 45.6
    25 Baindur 76,460 3,594 35,013 31,419 9,609 452 6,190 5,738 59.7
    TOTAL 1,261,527 59,292 481,906 422,614 154,983 7,284 91,480 84,196 54.3
    Source: Website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka.

    * @ 4.7 % from Census 2011

     

    Table 2: Identification of Households with One or More Unregistered All-Other Adults in Specified Constituencies in Karnataka (March 2018)

     

    All Households All Others
    SNo

     

    Name of Assembly Constituency Total Households (HHs)

    (a)

    Expected

    Single Person HHs*

    (b)

    Actual

    Single Person HHs

    (c)

    Additional Identified

    Single

    Voter

    HHs

    (d) = (c) – (b)

    All-Other

    HHs (e)

    Expected Single Person HHs *

    (f)

    Actual

    Single Person HHs

    (g)

    Additional Identified

    Single

    Voter

    HHs

    (h) = (g) – (f)

    %ge Additional single Voter HHs to Total All-Other

    (j) = (h)/(a) *(100)

    1 Haveri 47,541 2,234 17,118 14,884 41,401 1,946 13,454 11,508 27.8
    2 Nargund 44,520 2,092 15,672 13,580 39,305 1,847 12,594 10,747 27.3
    3 Navalgund 63,555 2,987 26,159 23,172 55,513 2,609 20,963 18,354 33.1
    4 Ron 52,259 2,456 19,744 17,288 46,258 2,174 16,080 13,906 30.1
    5 Hadagali 41,075 1,931 16,726 14,795 36,707 1,725 13,934 12,209 33.3
    6 Kundgol 38,166 1,794 13,426 11,632 32,957 1,549 10,455 8,906 27.0
    7 Byadgi 51,606 2,425 16,678 14,253 45,080 2,119 13,135 11,016 24.4
    8 Harapanahalli 49,654 2,334 16,657 14,323 43,040 2,023 13,001 10,978 25.5
    9 Kittur 55,556 2,611 22,337 19,726 49,208 2,313 18,395 16,082 32.7
    10 Ramdurg 56,941 2,676 26,407 23,731 49,486 2,326 21,372 19,046 38.5
    11 Devara Hippargi 36,560 1,718 13,097 11,379 30,033 1,412 9,464 8,052 26.8
    12 Mudhol 45,426 2,135 17,134 14,999 39,141 1,840 13,459 11,619 29.7
    13 Devanahalli 52,928 2,488 17,617 15,129 47,440 2,230 14,610 12,380 26.1
    14 Sakaleshpur 51,261 2,409 16,537 14,128 46,012 2,163 13,726 11,563 25.1
    15 Basavana Bagevadi 26,779 1,259 11,099 9,840 22,529 1,059 8,516 7,457 33.1
    16 Kampli 50,703 2,383 20,580 18,197 45,240 2,126 17,243 15,117 33.4
    17 Bangarapet 49,672 2,335 17,364 15,029 42,866 2,015 13,655 11,640 27.2
    18 Sringeri 51,534 2,422 16,529 14,107 45,943 2,159 13,614 11,455 24.9
    19 Saundatti 58,311 2,741 23,346 20,605 51,420 2,417 19,242 16,825 32.7
    20 Kushtagi 50,159 2,357 20,338 17,981 44,753 2,103 17,087 14,984 33.5
    21 Karwar 57,719 2,713 27,948 25,235 51,777 2,434 23,906 21,472 41.5
    22 Ranebennur 55,001 2,585 22,764 20,179 47,384 2,227 18,187 15,960 33.7
    23 Hirekerur 42,261 1,986 14,179 12,193 36,249 1,704 11,054 9,350 25.8
    24 Arsikere 55,880 2,626 17,437 14,811 49,951 2,348 14,457 12,109 24.2
    25 Baindur 76,460 3,594 35,013 31,419 66,851 3,142 28,823 25,681 38.4
    TOTAL 1,261,527 59,292 481,906 422,614 1,106,544 52,008 390,426 338,418 30.6
    Source: Website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka.

    * @ 4.7 % from Census 2011

     

    Table 3: Differential Additional HHs with unregistered Adult between the Muslim and All Other Population Groups
    S No Name of Assembly Constituency % Additional Muslim Voter HH (j) = (h)/(a) *(100)

     

    % Additional All Others Voter HH (j) = (h)/(a) *(100) Difference
    1 Haveri 55.0 27.8 27.2
    2 Nargund 54.3 27.3 27
    3 Navalgund 59.9 33.1 26.8
    4 Ron 56.4 30.1 26.3
    5 Hadagali 59.2 33.3 25.9
    6 Kundgol 52.3 27 25.3
    7 Byadgi 49.6 24.4 25.2
    8 Harapanahalli 50.6 25.5 25.1
    9 Kittur 57.4 32.7 24.7
    10 Ramdurg 62.8 38.5 24.3
    11 Devara Hippargi 51.0 26.8 24.2
    12 Mudhol 53.8 29.7 24.1
    13 Devanahalli 50.1 26.1 24
    14 Sakaleshpur 48.9 25.1 23.8
    15 Basavana Bagevadi 56.1 33.1 23
    16 Kampli 56.4 33.4 23
    17 Bangarapet 49.8 27.2 22.6
    18 Sringeri 47.4 24.9 22.5
    19 Saundatti 54.9 32.7 22.2
    20 Kushtagi 55.4 33.5 21.9
    21 Karwar 63.3 41.5 21.8
    22 Ranebennur 55.4 33.7 21.7
    23 Hirekerur 47.3 25.8 21.5
    24 Arsikere 45.6 24.2 21.4
    25 Baindur 59.7 38.4 21.3
    TOTAL 54.3 30.6 23.7
    Source: Website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka.

    Public Engagement

    Keeping this data in mind, the first author of this article met with the secretary of the Minority Welfare Department, Government of Karnataka to find a possible recourse to the issue. However, the author was informed that often the Election Commission of India (ECI) rolls are complete and approximately equal to the total adults counted in a constituency in the census. Thus, the unregistered voters who were discovered by the CRDDP’s empirical research did not exist in the documentation, records, and even minds, of the officials of the Commission.

    Overall, the data suggests that there are 66 lakhs adults in Karnataka who live in clearly identifiable households. The CRDDP database has residential addresses of all such households where there is high likelihood of finding one or more unregistered adults. Such (non)-voters are physically identifiable as it is possible to identify their addresses. This fact has already been brought to the notice of the Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer and the ECI at New Delhi.[8]

    This scenario, therefore, leads to the following conclusions:

    1. There is a possibility of wrong entries in Karnataka voter list which can be categorised as bogus and which can enable or even prompt political parties’ wrongdoing.

    2. The ECI must take an urgent note of these gross constitutional violations and launch corrective measures before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

    Estimating Absolute Number of Adults Not Listed in the Voter List in Karnataka

    Data in Tables 1 and 2 has been extracted and compiled by using the addresses found in the voter list on the electoral officer’s website. This data relates to households in which one or more married couples and other adults live. In Karnataka, just about 70% of all households are one-couple households which can also be classified as nuclear families. Another 20% households can be categorised as joint households where two or more married couples live along with their children (possibly adults) and elders. About 10% of households do not contain married couples, but they can be adults.

    However, to estimate the absolute number of adults not listed as voters, one must begin with the electoral office data on how many total voters are listed in the first place. A mass enrollment drive was held on 8 April 2018 and the online registrations were open till 14 April 2018. During this period, 12 lakh new voters were included in the voter list (Times of India 2018; Hindu 2018).

    From the primary data for 221 constituencies, we can find a total of 66.2 lakh households in Karnataka which have one listed voter; of these, 13 lakh are Muslim households and the remaining 53.2 lakh belong to the All Others category. These absolute numbers are derived from the CRDDP’s basic data files where only the total count can be achieved.

    Using the absolute population data from the Chief Electoral Officer’s office and the single-person household estimates from the CRDDP, estimation procedures have arrived at 20% unregistered voters among Muslims and 12.3% unregistered voters in the All Other category (Table 4).

    Table 4:  Estimates of Unregistered / Excluded Adults from Voter List in Karnataka as on March 2018
     

    All Voters

    Muslims All Others
    Chief Electoral Officer reported total voters (lakh) *

    (share of Muslims in Karnataka population is 13%)

    498.0

     

    64.7

     

    433.3

     

    CRDDP estimated net single person voter HHs with one or more un-registered adults living in them (lakhs) 66.2

     

     

    13.0

     

     

    53.2

     

     

    CRDDP estimated net single person voter HHs as a percentage of total voters (%)

     

    13.3 %

     

    20.0 %

     

    12.3 %

     

    Source: Website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka.

    *The project population of Karnataka suggests an expected 46,727,912 adults over 18 years of ages in 2018. Thus, Election Office gives a number which is 31 lakh higher.

     

    Mission 2019

    It is now time to launch “Mission 2019” in order to ensure that all adult citizens find their names listed in the respective booth-level voter lists. Since Muslims have a higher chance of being excluded from the electoral process, special drives must be launched in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Assam, which have a large Muslim population. Besides the data for Karnataka provided above, the CRDDP has actual estimations for 30 constituencies in Telangana, 50 constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, and 183 constituencies in Gujarat. It also has access to similar data manually generated for selected districts of Uttar Pradesh during 2007.  Table 5 contains sample data for two constituencies each from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

    Table 5: Identification of Households with one or more unregistered Muslim Adults two selected Constituencies each in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat
     

    Name of the Constituency

    Total House-holds No  of Muslim HHs

     

     

    Possible Single Adult Person Muslim HHs (2011 Census) Electoral Record based No of Muslim HHs with only one voter Identified No. of Muslim HHs with one or more unregistered adults

     

     % of Voters Excluded from Voter Lists
     

    Telangana

    SIDDIPET 64,700 6,587 329 3,201 2,872 43.6
    ARMUR 63,482 7,995 400 4,345 3,945 49.3
     

    Andhra Pradesh

    VIJYAWADA WEST 56,255 10,991 500 6,127 5,577 50.7
    KADAPA 57,489 19,917 996 7,272 6,276 31.5
     

    Gujarat

    GODHRA 67,032 20,505 1,025 10,924 9,899 48.3
    DHOLKA 59,719 12,796 640 6,695 6,055 47.3
    Source: Websites of the Chief Electoral Officers of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat.[9]

    The malaise of exclusion of the Muslim electorate from voter lists appears to be existing in all states. This, therefore, is a challenge to the citizens of India that they participate in this mission 2019 and save democracy in the largest democracy of the world.  Let myopic vision and procrastination of the government system and the election commission not disgrace the ethos and the sterling democratic principles of India.

    Abusaleh Shariff (ashariff@usindiapolicy.org) is at the US–India Policy Institute, Washington DC and Khalid Saifullah (khalidness@gmail.com) is at Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, New Delhi.
    23 May 2018
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