Britain’s Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) on Sunday invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s name as they held a protest outside the Indian High Commission here to demand the right to vote in Indian elections without having to travel to their natives homes.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pressing for introduction of postal ballot or online voting for NRIs, they said that if Gandhi were alive today and happened to be living abroad he would have fallen foul of the Indian election law which requires non-resident Indians to be physically present in the constituencies where they are registered to be able to exercise their franchise.
“Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedkar were non-resident Indians for sometime. So potentially they would have missed the opportunity to vote,” the letter said.
The protesters who were mobilised by the Leicester-based campaign group, Pravasi Bharat, gathered near Gandhi’s statue at Tavistock Square, central London, and marched to India House where they handed the letter to a High Commission official.
It said that millions of Indians living abroad felt effectively disenfranchised as it was “practically impossible” for them to travel to India for the specific purpose of voting.
“There is an important principle at stake: all citizens should have equal rights, regardless of where they happen to be at election time,’’ it added pointing out that several countries such as Britain, America and Canada allowed for postal voting for their overseas citizens.
“Ours is a genuinely democratic struggle for the basic right of feasible voting and it will continue until our demand is met, ’’ said Nagender Chindam, chairman of Pravasi Bharat.