A day after a self-proclaimed cyber expert made what even the organisers of an anti-EVM event in London called "uncorroborated claims" regarding the 'hackability' of voting machines in India, the ruling BJP party on Tuesday launched a sharp attack on senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal over his presence at the 'hackathon'. In the wake of the issue, Kapil Sibal called a press conference to put forth his side of the story and agreed that much of what was said "sounded like science fiction" but insisted that it was the job of the media or investigators to verify the allegations.
Syed Shuja, a self-proclaimed cyber expert based in the US, had called for the 'hackathon' in London on Monday to demonstrate EVM hacking but, instead, he made sensational allegations without offering a shred of proof. Distancing himself from the matter, Kapil Sibal took cover under an email sent to him by 'hackathon' organiser Indian Journalists Association's (IJA's) Ashis Ray. Sibal said:
"I was not willing to give a press conference on this matter but the fact that a distinguished minister of this government (referring to union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad) has chosen to come to the press and make statements which are not only irresponsible but also not befitting to the status of the office that he holds. There is a gentleman who had made some serious allegations. Backed by an email which is sent to me by Ashish Ray in which he has stated that Syed Shuja (the 'hacker') has got political asylum from the American government. This document (Email) has been forwarded. He has also stated that he was working on a project with 13 other people including him. It was called the project- MS7B. He says that immediately after the election on 12th of May, on 13th of May, they were called to a particular guest house--the Kaki Reddy's guest house--which he claims is a brother-in-law of Krishan Reddy MLA. He says that of the 13 people called, 11 were shot. He says that when Krishan Reddy MLA entered the room he said 'Champai Andheki'. He also said that on 15th of May he took a flight to Chicago and he was in a detention centre for 16 days and was in the hospital for 15 days. This can be verified from the passport office and the detention centre. Then he also says that when he inquired about his house he found out that it was burned and also his parents were burnt to death. He says that they show this as a communal riot. He then went on to write that the gentleman who was in charge of the project was Kamal Rao and another man involved was Mr Shulka. Both reside in the USA now".
While Shuja said a riot was engineered in the Kishanbagh area of Hyderabad and his dead colleagues were passed off as riot victims, the reports reveal that three 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 on May 2014.
"He further says that Wind solution is the company that works for future EVM machines. They asked the question as to whether the EVM machine can be tampered and that's how they started working on the project. And he says that he worked in Sanat Nagar. Therefore ECIL has a lot to answer", Mr Sibal said.
However, 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, ECIL probe shows nobody named Shuja in employee records.
Sibal went on to add, "He says that when he went to the US, they verified all these facts. These are the matter that needs to be investigated. I would request the CM of Andhra Pradesh to lodge an FIR. Then he says that one leader of Political party met him in the USA on 25th of January. This sounds like a science fiction story. The fact of the matter is when Ashis Ray said that he had sent an invitation to all political parties and he sent a personal invitation to me. Therefore I have come before you. We should find out these facts".
Even though Mr Sibal states that he attended the event on a personal capacity, Ashis Ray, the organiser of the Hackathon, contradicted his statement saying that Congress' Kapil Sibal came as the representative of the party.
Meanwhile, in damage control mode, the Congress has demanded that the Election Commission should restore confidence in the vote machines and investigate the "hacker's" claims.
The Election Commission, however, is contemplating legal action against the "expert", who had claimed to have worked with the poll body once.