A video of electronic voting machines (EVM) being moved out of a 'strongroom' has gone viral on social media with a claim that the voting machines were illegal stored in a shop owned by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.
The caption with the video reads, "once again locals helped officials seize over 300 EVMs from a shop. The shop is owned by a BJP leader."
(Hindi: फिर एक दुकान से 300 से अधिक ईवीएम स्थानीय लोगों ने पकड़वाया।बीजेपी से जुड़े नेता का है दुकान।)
The video, shot after dark, shows a room from which several EVMs are being moved out while onlookers record the incident on their mobile phones.
However, the room is actually a strongroom at the Navin Mandi Sthal in Chandauli, and the people seen transporting the EVMs are not locals but government employees.
BOOM took screenshots of the video and zoomed in on the frame where 'strongroom' can be clearly seen written in Hindi on the wall next to the room where the EVMs were kept.
This, and several other videos showing EVMs being transported have taken the social media by a storm since the conclusion of polling on May 19, 2019 with serious allegations of tampering.
The same video has been shared from the verified Facebook page of Aam Aadmi Party, Gurgaon with a caption claiming, 'More than 300 EVM caught by the locals stored inside a shop. Thats the Murder of Democracy going on.'
The video has been shared with similar claims on several Facebook pages and Twitter handles with some also mentioning the location of the incident as Chandauli, Uttar Pradesh.
The viral post can be accessed here.
What EC Officials Say
BOOM contacted District Election Officer, Chandauli, Navneet Singh Chahal, who refuted the claims in the viral post.
"The video is from Navin Mandi Sthal, Chandauli. Some un-polled EVMs were being moved from Sakaldiha constituency to Chandauli. There were being kept in a separate strongroom in the afternoon when members of some political parties raised an objection," Chahal told BOOM.
Later, Chahal, along with other officials, reached the spot and tried to pacify the protesting party members.
"To bring the situation under control, we decided to shift the un-polled EVMs from the strongroom in Navin Mandi Sthal to the collectorate. It was evening by this time"
Navneet Singh Chahal, DEO, IAS
The DEO categorically denied that the room shown in the video is a shop owned by a BJP leader.
Another Video From The Same Location
Meanwhile, BOOM found another video on Facebook which shows the same location but shot during the afternoon. The claim with this video is also misleading.
The caption claims, "The hooliganism in Yogi government. Administration is changing the EVMs under the pressure of BJP government. Democracy is being killed in broad daylight. Opposition as well as media plays a silent spectator. Be ashamed."
(Hindi: योगी सरकार की गुंडई, प्रशासन भाजपा सरकार के दबाव में चंदौली में EVM बदलवा रही है, सरेआम लोकतंत्र की हत्या हो रही है, विपक्ष समेत मीडिया भी खामोश है...शर्म करो |)
The archived version of the post can be accessed here.
The same video is also viral on Twitter.
We found out that the video clip is from the same location, however, shot sometime during the day.
As the video plays, a voice talking on phone in the background can be heard saying: "I am here right now, recording it. They are unloading it (EVMs) here. No one is here, and they are not telling us anything. Room no. 10. No one from any party is here. EVM machines are being brought to room no. 10. "
The same man, at one point, starts asking questions to the persons carrying the EVMs. "Where are you bringing the machines from", he asks. The person responds - "Sakaldiha".
Chandaulli is a district in Uttar Pradesh which went to polls in the last phase of elections, on May 19. Sakaldiha is an Assembly constituency in UP, around 10 kms from Chandaulli
One of the men carrying the EVMs says these are reserved EVMs, being moved on the orders of the Sakaldiha Tehsildar. He identifies himself as a cleaner.
Taking cue, BOOM contacted Sakaldiha Tehsildar Nupur Singh. She admitted that the EVMs were being moved on her orders and these were reserved machines.
"We were told by the Assistant Returning Officer to move the EVMs. These were all Reserve EVMs."
Nupur Singh, Sakaldiha Tehsildar
BOOM also contacted ARO, Chandaulli, who confirmed that the EVMs were being moved to the Chandaulli strong room on his order. When we questioned him why this was not done on May 19 itself, he said, "We are busy with several other things including sealing of the polled EVMs. Such delays do happen. We had informed all the officials concerned and later representatives of political parties were also informed."
Election Commission's Response
Meanwhile, the Election Commission released a statement on the safety of polled EVMs.
Apart from a general statement, ECI has also tweeted reports from the Reporting Officers concerned, from various districts.
In the reports issued by RO, Chandaulli, the details of the reserved EVMs being shifted to a strongroom in Chandaulli have been clearly mentioned.
In a letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner, the District Election Commissioner states: After the seventh phase of polling ended on 19 May, 2019, polled EVMs and VVPATs were kept in double strong rooms. The strongrooms were left under the vigil of CRPF personnel...On May 20, reserve EVMs and VVPATs kept at 381 - Sakaldiha, after the polling, were transported to Navin Mandi committee, Chandaulli by the Assistant Returning Officer. Preparations were on to keep the EVMs in an extra strongroom in Chandaulli when few members of Samajwadi Party raised doubts over the EVMs being kept there...members of other political parties joined them too. However, later police personnel arrived at the scene and the protesters were briefed about the situation.
The Election Commission's spokeswoman also shared a letter addressed by Samajwadi Party district chief Satyanarayan Rajbhar addressed to the DEO, wherein he, on behalf of the party, said they were satisfied with the steps taken by the officials regarding the EVMs.
1/n Pl note the followg factual reports from concerned Returning Officers in context of varied clips being circulated on media platforms on EVM strong room issues. Clarification issued by RO👇wrt mishandling of EVMs in Chandauli, UP. All extant guidelines issued by ECI followed. pic.twitter.com/wNOS3WmtvL— Sheyphali Sharan (@SpokespersonECI) May 21, 2019