One of the organisers of a London event where an Indian-born man claiming to be a cyber expert on Monday sought to demonstrate how electronic voting machines can be hacked distanced itself from the event the next day. Syed Shuja had claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party had rigged the 2014 elections by hacking the voting machines.
Another organiser, however, has called for an investigation into the allegations.
The Foreign Press Association, which describes itself as the oldest association of foreign journalists in the world, said in a tweet on Tuesday that it “strongly dissociates itself” from “any claims made by the speaker Syed Shuja”. “Not one of the masked speaker’s accusations have so far been corroborated,” the group said.
The group’s director, Deborah Bonetti, added: “The speaker at yesterday’s event did not follow up his claims with any proof. He was not credible and should not have been given a platform.”
However, Indian Journalists Association President Ashis Ray said both the group and the Foreign Press Association organised the event in good faith, the Hindustan Times reported. Ray said the speaker is “radio frequency engineer Syed Hyder Ahmed, also known as Syed Shuja”.
“Admittedly, the accusations made by Ahmed were very serious, which he could not substantiate,” Ray said. “He left a roomful of scribes highly skeptical, if not annoyed. On the face of it, Ahmed’s utterances via Skype left most journalists who listened to him and questioned him unconvinced.”
However, Ray added that “the picture he painted of what allegedly occurred in Hyderabad in May 2014 was clearly chilling” and an inquiry must be initiated into these allegations. Shuja had claimed that he and his team were attacked when they went to meet BJP leaders in Hyderabad, and the other members of his team were killed.
Ray added that Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who attended the event, may have been sent as an observer. “He sat in one of the back rows of the room, and did not participate in the proceedings in any way.”
Meanwhile, the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd said on Tuesday that Shuja had not been an employee of the organisation, as claimed by him, PTI reported. In a letter to Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, the company, which manufactures EVMs, said that Shuja was neither a regular employee of the firm nor associated in any way the design and development of voting machines between 2009 and 2014, contrary to his claims.
The Election Commission has asked the Delhi Police to file a first information report against the “cyber expert”.