An EVM 'expert' identifying himself as Syed Shuja and claiming to be part of the team that designed the voting machines on Monday made shocking claims that the 2014 general election was "rigged" adding that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can indeed be hacked, while addressing a news briefing in London where Congress leader Kapil Sibal was present. The event was organized by the Indian Journalists' Association, as well as the Foreign Press Association, with the latter later coming out to disassociate itself with the event owing to Shuja's submissions being uncorroborated, though that only came after Republic TV laid bare the numerous inconsistencies, lapses and general inaccuracies in the circumstances of the events in London. While addressing a press conference via Skype, the masked man cyber expert also claimed to have designed the EVMs used in India.
During the press conference, Syed Shuja, wearing a mask, made numerous outlandish and explosive claims, most of which he could not confirm or provide anything resembling solid proof for. Republic TV is the only channel that has pointed out the contradictions to all the baseless and unsubstantiated claims the hacker paraded and they are as follows:
Claim 1: Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal was present at the event wherein the hacker claimed that the 2014 general elections were rigged. Explaining his presence, Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that Sibal had gone in his personal capacity.
Fact: Speaking to Republic TV, the event's organiser said that many political parties had been invited to the event, but it was only the Congress that sent Kapil Sibal as an observer.
Claim 2: The cyber expert also claimed that BJP leader and Union Minister Gopinath Munde was "killed" because he was aware of EVM hacking in 2014 general elections. However, he could not provide any evidence to back up his claim.
Fact: Dr Sudhir Gupta, head of forensic medicine at AIIMS, who was at the head of the board that conducted Munde's autopsy, while speaking to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Monday, clarified that homicide had been ruled out and that it had been discussed with the Delhi police and CBI.
He said, "The post-mortem, in this case, has been conducted by a medical board, headed by me and three other doctors. It was attended by the then Health Minister, the full cabinet was present there. We had found an elbow excel joint fracture it the post-mortem, with a posterior neck defect. This elbow excel joint fracture is not possible in any case of homicide, hence it was ruled out at the very beginning. it could only be possible in the case of an accident when the high momentum is being applied to the neck. This has been discussed properly in a complete way with Delhi police and a large board had been constituted by the CBI."
Claim 3: Shuja also said a riot was engineered in the Kishanbagh area of Hyderabad and his dead colleagues were passed off as riot victims, specifying 11 people had died.
Fact: While he claimed his colleagues died in the riots, reports reveal that three and not eleven persons were killed in police firing following communal clashes sparked by alleged burning of a religious flag by some persons in Kishanbagh area of the Old City of Hyderabad in May 2014.
Claim 4: Speaking at the event in London, Shuja claimed he was part of a team at the public sector firm Electronic Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), which designed and developed the EVMs, between 2009-14.
Fact: In response to his claims, ECI said that it firmly stands by fool-proof nature of EVMS. As per media reports, only M1 (manufactured up to 2006) and M2 (made between 2006 and 2010) machines were used in 2014. If the hacker indeed joined ECIL in 2009, he could not have designed the machines used in 2014. Furthermore, an ECIL probe shows nobody named Shuja in employee records.
Claim 5: Syed Shuja also claimed the NIA officer Mohammed Tanzil Ahmed, who was investigating Gopinath Munde's death, was planning to file an FIR noting Munde had been murdered, but was himself killed.
Fact: NIA sources have confirmed to Republic TV that officer Tanzil Mohammad was shot dead over a property dispute, and his killer Muneer had also admitted to the crime, contradicting Shuja's claim over Tanzil and Munde's murder.
Fact 2: Uttar Pradesh ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) also rubbished the claim on Munde’s murder, reiterating that NIA officer was killed following a property dispute.
Claim 6: Shuja told media that his Date Of Birth is April 4, 1981.
Fact: An alleged US Homeland Security document from the organiser claims his DOB is April 4, 1983.
Claim 7: The cyber 'expert' promised to demonstrate how Indian Electronic Voting Machines are hackable and have been hacked in earlier Indian elections, making it easy to rig the elections.
Fact: Despite organisers Indian Journalists’ Association and Foreign Press Association seeking a live demonstration, Syed Shuja declined to do so.
Claim 8: The Congress-run National Herald news website had touted that the two organisers - Indian Journalists Association and Foreign Press Association - would be bringing forward an expert who would demonstrate EVM hacking.
Fact: With the 'hacker' unwilling to back up his claims with any evidence or demonstations, at least one of the organisers - the Foreign Press Association - has doubled back on lending Shuja any credence.
Italian journalist Deborah Bonetti, who was on the dais when the press conference was going on, has also said that a platform should not have been given to Shuja:
Claim 9: Shuja claimed some of his team members were killed, and he was also allegedly attacked, however, survived the attack. He claimed to have suffered injuries due to which he could not attend the event personally.
Fact check: Organiser Ashis Ray admits that he was trying to get more clarifications on the claim. "I have nothing to say. I am a journalist. I asked questions just as anyone else did. IJA is trying to get clarification. We will share this if we get more clarifications," the organiser said.
The journalists assembled in London asked Shuja for proof of his political asylum in the US, but he was not forthcoming about the details. The press conference was organised by the Indian Journalists' Association (Europe).