A controversy erupted when a Muslim woman refused to remove her burqa for identification during the voting in Belagavi, Karnataka. She was standing in the queue at polling booth 185 on Saturday. The woman later argued with election officials and started crying.
A similar kind of incident took place last year in UP as well. A woman was asked to remove her burqa for security reasons. The woman identified herself as Saira. She claimed that she was a BJP worker and had come to attend the rally from her village wearing her “traditional dress”. The burqa is worn by women in Islamic traditions to cover themselves in public, which covers the body and the face. Women constables on duty asked her to lift her veil for identification.
Any attire that prevents the authorities from identifying somebody can be a threat on an election day. It can also be a threat to security in other instances. This incident has brought some serious security issue to the limelight which needs to be addressed. As we have seen recently over 10,000 voter ID cards were found in a flat in Bengaluru, this shows that it’s not difficult to have multiple voter ID cards. The Supreme Court has said that burqa-clad women cannot be issued voter identity cards, rejecting the argument that religion prohibits them from lifting their veils. The Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma said “If you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen by members of the public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in the identification of voters”. During UP elections, JPS Rathore requested deployment of female police officers so that voter’s ID of burqa-clad women could be checked properly so that no fake person could cast a vote.
Morocco has banned burqas because of security reasons. “Bandits have repeatedly used this (burqa) garment to perpetrate their crimes. There have been cases of robbery and theft in Delhi done by men disguised as women in a burqa. At Rajinder Nagar Metro station two men disguised as women entered and looted about 12 lakhs of cash. After this incident CISF came up with a new set of security guidelines wherein covering your face with anything such as surgical masks, mufflers, dupatta or anti-pollution caps, during an inspection is not allowed. After the new guidelines, CISF asked a girl in burqa to reveal her face which attracted a lot of controversy on social media. Social media was full of rumours that Delhi has banned entry of women wearing burqa. Later on, CISF (Central Industrial security force official) officer clarified that no such ban has been imposed and “no woman will be harassed to reveal her identity” and shall only be asked to show her face. These incidents raise the question that does one need to sacrifice the security of the people at the altar of religious orthodoxy?