According to a blog post by G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, “a leading election analyst and a political commentator”, Hari K. Prasad, one of the authors of the paper that describes hardware based attacks on Indian Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), has been arrested by Maharashtra police for the “theft of EVM” that was used in the study.
Today, at wee hours Maharashtra police landed up at the residence of Hari Prasad in Hyderabad, a technologist and Technical coordinator of VeTA to arrest him. The arrest was made on the flimsy charge of ‘theft of EVM’ used for vulnerability demonstration by Hari Prasad and a team of security researchers that included Alex Halderman, professor of computer science, University of Michigan and Rop Gonggrijp, a security researcher from Netherlands along with a team of their colleagues.
Earlier, police came to Hyderabad in the first week of August and recorded a statement on the EVM they had used for exposing the vulnerability of EVMs. They summoned him to Mumbai for further questioning. Hari Prasad could not go as he was busy with his professional work. Then, the sudden arrest happened this morning.
While it is not right to speculate without further information on the matter, if is true, this is a very disturbing development. There are three possible motive behind the alleged arrest.
- Mr. Prasad did not answer to the summon and hence the police has taken him in for further questioning.
- Mr. Prasad is being being pressured to reveal the source that provided him with the EVM for the study and he refused to do so. The police is using scare tactics to flush out the information.
- Mr. Prasad is being harassed (at least indirectly by the Election Commission) for the study he helped conduct that revealed flaws in the India EVM.
Of the three, while the third is the most sensational, it seems to be the least unlikely since the cat is out of the bag and actions like arrest will only provide more publicity to the work, not that there is any lack of it. According to Mr. Rao – “13 political parties had written to the ECI in April expressing concerns about the reliability of EVMs and urging the ECI to organize an All-party meeting.”
Following days will reveal the full story but for now suffice it to say that the news is disturbing and looks like an attack on independent critical analysis of Indian evoting system.