At a time when several political parties have targeted the electoral process in the country with allegations of EVM tampering, the Gujarat office of the Election Commission of India has prepared a comic book with seven stories about the electorate to spread awareness about the voting process. The book, titled Sentinels of Democracy, also touches upon the lives of officials who conduct the polls in remote corners of the country.
Most characters in these stories are fictional. In one of the stories, Rajasthan-based politician Muralilal gets caught up in various activities on the polling day and forgets to send his driver to bring his aged mother and wife to the polling station. He ends up losing the election by one vote. In another story, a Singapore-based investment banker shows his dedication to democratic process by visiting India to cast his vote.
Some of the stories containe real-life references too. One story mentions Guru Bharat Das, the solitary voter who lives near Banej village in the middle of the Gir sanctuary, but has never missed the chance the cast his vote. During elections, a small room of the forest department turns into a polling station where Das casts his vote. The book also narrates how some polling officials in 1999 trekked 45 km in knee-deep snow to reach Ralakung and Phema villages in Jammu and Kashmir, which have only 37 voters. The polling stations, located 13,500 feet above the sea level, recorded 100 per cent vote that year.
This book has been put together by the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat in collaboration with Ahmedabad-based Research Foundation for Governance in India (RFGI), an institution that describes itself as a think-tank aimed at research, promotion and implementation of various reforms to improve the legal and political process. “The lawtoons have been created keeping young voters in mind. It is a simple way of explaining complex processes,” B B Swain, Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, told The Indian Express.
The sister duo of Kanan Dhru and Kelly Dhru from RFGI are behind preparing the book containing 40-odd pages. “The sisters have past experience in creating lawtoons,” Swain added.
The book is currently available in English and Hindi languages. “Initially, we plan to print about 1000 copies. We will also prepare an e-book which can be downloaded from the EC website,” Swain added.
The comic book also emphasises the importance of women voters and how their votes make a difference in poll outcomes.
“Lawtoons is a unique project, perhaps the first-of-its-kind, to simplify laws of India in an interesting and humorous way. This compilation contains stories from the length and breadth of India and has attempted to give a glimpse of what makes the Indian elections so unique,” Nasim Zaidi. Chief Election Commissioner, has stated in the foreword.
Kanan Dhru said they sought help from the National Institute of Design to help incorporate voices, lingo and body language from different parts of the country. “We created characters who were relatable and realistic. We have tried to bring out several issues faced by women in India, a large number of whom fail to get themselves registered as voters,” Dhru said.