Experts have voiced objections against an Election Commission move to formulate a new policy on correcting and changing voters’ names on their national identity (NID) cards.
According to the draft of the policy, a voter’s name on the NID card must be the same as the one on his or her birth certificate and academic credentials, and corrections and changes will be allowed only in special circumstances.
Officials at the Election Commission said the measure was taken to “prevent crimes” as criminals frequently change their names and address to dodge arrests.
If the draft policy comes into effect, minority groups, especially the Hindus, will have to face hurdles as their naming conventions are heavily influenced by their caste system, said minority leaders and experts.
As per the Hindu customs, after marriage, a Hindu woman is required to use her husband’s surname after her first name, instead of the surname she has used before the marriage, explained Rana Dash Gupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council.
“This has been in practice for hundreds of years, and bringing a change in it will certainly hurt the Hindus’ religious sentiments and freedom.”
Naming conventions of the Hindus are associated with their emotions. So, if Hindu women cannot change their names after their marriage because of such a policy, most of them might refrain from exercising their franchise, the minority leader added.
Also, if the policy comes into force, Hindu women will face tremendous hurdles while receiving inheritance from their parents, said Rana Dash Gupta, also a Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist.
Criticizing the move, another Supreme Court lawyer, Jyotirmoy Barua said preventing crimes and ensuring people’s safety is the responsibility of a state, but that does not mean the state will determine names for its citizens and interfere in an individual’s personal life.
Asked, Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul Islam, director general of the Commission’s NID card wing, said the measure is in the initial stage and that they would consider all religious, social and legal aspects before finalizing the policy.
“We have moved to formulate a policy on changing and correcting the NID card holders’ names, as some people are committing crimes using different names. However, we are still discussing various aspects of the move. After discussions, we will make our final decision,” the official added.