An Indelible Mark: Muslim Scientist’s Invented Ink Remains Immutable Feature of Polls in India, Pakistan


Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, advocates honouring the Pakistani scientist.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – In the intricate tapestry of Indian elections, one constant remains: the indelible mark gracing the fingertips of voters. Unchanged since the nation’s inaugural general elections in 1951, this symbolic marking stands as a testament to electoral integrity. Remarkably, this enduring emblem finds its origins in the ingenuity of a Pakistani scientist, Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui.

Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the esteemed grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, sheds light on this historical footnote in one of his essays. Amidst the evolving landscape of Indian elections, from grassroots contests to national mandates, the indelible ink remains an immutable feature. Reflecting on this legacy, Gandhi suggests christening the ink “Siddiqi Ink” to honour Dr. Siddiqui, its visionary creator. Yet, amidst strained relations between India and Pakistan, such recognition appears improbable.

Dr. Siddiqui’s pivotal role in India’s electoral history traces back to the nascent years post-independence. As the nation grappled with the logistics of conducting free and fair elections, the need for a foolproof method to deter fraudulent practices emerged. Tasked with this challenge was the eminent scientist, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). However, it was Dr. Siddiqui, then a chemical scientist at CSIR, who spearheaded the development of the indelible ink.

Born on October 19, 1897, in District Barabanki of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Siddiqui hailed from a family deeply engaged in the Pakistan movement. Educated at esteemed institutions like Aligarh Muslim University and Frankfurt University in Germany, he distinguished himself in the field of chemistry. Joining CSIR in 1940, Dr. Siddiqui’s expertise traversed traditional medicines, chemical research, and academia.

In a poignant gesture of scientific collaboration, Pakistan’s first prime minister, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, extended an invitation to Dr. Siddiqui to bolster scientific endeavours in Pakistan. Facilitating this exchange, then India’s prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru permitted Dr. Siddiqui’s visit to Pakistan. There, he laid the foundation for scientific institutions like the Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and served as vice chancellor of Karachi University.

The genesis of the indelible ink can be traced to Dr. Siddiqui’s meticulous experimentation. Collaborating with Dr. Bhatnagar, Dr. Siddiqui enhanced the ink’s durability by incorporating silver bromide into the formula. The resulting concoction left an enduring mark resistant to erasure, thus ensuring the sanctity of the electoral process.

Dr. Siddiqui’s indelible ink stands as a beacon of transparency in electoral practices, transcending national boundaries. Embraced by India, Pakistan, and numerous other nations, its efficacy in safeguarding the sanctity of elections is unparalleled. Notably, India’s export of this ink to over 30 countries underscores its global acclaim.

According to the Election Commission of India, the demand for indelible ink continues to surge, with recent orders exceeding 6.25 lakh vials. This testament to its enduring relevance reinforces its indispensable role in upholding democratic principles.

In advocating for honouring Dr. Siddiqui’s contribution, Gopal Krishna Gandhi underscores the imperative of acknowledging shared legacies amidst geopolitical tensions. As India prepares for its next electoral chapter, the indelible ink serves as a tangible reminder of the enduring bonds between nations, transcending borders and ideologies.

The indelible ink pioneered by Dr. Siddiqui remains an indomitable symbol of electoral integrity. Rooted in collaboration and scientific ingenuity, its legacy endures, serving as a testament to the shared values of democracy. As India navigates the complexities of modern governance, the indelible mark on its voters’ fingertips stands as a timeless tribute to the visionary contributions of Dr. Siddiqui.

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