As the Israel-made spyware Pegasus stirs up a storm before the Monsoon session of Parliament, several opposition leaders reacted to the report published by an Indian online news portal on Sunday, 18 July, which revealed that the spyware was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of over 40 senior journalists, opposition leaders, government officials, and rights activists.
The report published by The Wire, said that the 'leaked data includes the numbers of top journalists at big media houses like the Hindustan Times, including executive editor Shishir Gupta, India Today, Network18, The Hindu and Indian Express'.
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi said, "We know what he's been reading- everything on your phone!"
Calling the Pegasus revelations abhorrent, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in a tweet, "If true, the Modi government seems to have launched a grave and sinister attack on the Right to Privacy - constitutionally guaranteed to Indian citizens as a Fundamental Right. This is an affront to democracy and has ominous implications for our freedoms."
Reacting to the report, CPI parliamentary party leader Binoy Viswam was quoted as saying, “The tentacles of the spy state have come to ministers, judges, journalists and opposition leaders. History of fascism says that out of their own fear complex, fascists go to any extent. I will give notice in Parliament for adjournment motion,”The Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy said, "It will be sensible if the Home Minister tells Parliament that Modi Government has nor had any involvement with the Israeli company which tapped and taped our telephones."
Aam Aadmi Party's Sanjay Singh and Dr Sushil Gupta also raised the matter in Rajya Sabha on Monday and tweeted a photo of their protest.
Compromises the Very System of Constitutional Democracy
Demanding a Supreme Court monitored judicial probe into the snooping, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said, “This matter has to be raised. It’s state surveillance. It is a very, very serious issue. It compromises the very system of constitutional democracy and the privacy of the citizens. The government cannot get away by saying that they have to verify and all. These are serious issues. Which are the agencies that got the malware? Which are the agencies which bought Pegasus? This is not something that the government can run away from,” The Indian Express reported.
Sharma added, “The phones of leaders in opposition, journalists, editors, Supreme Court judges, prominent business leaders are being tapped. What is coming out is a confirmation of the apprehensions expressed on the floor of Parliament in the past… it is not a question of a discussion or debate."
AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi demanded the government to disclose whether it availed the services of NSO, which owns Pegasus.
He stated that the government has to expressly disclose or deny only 2 things:
Did you use NSO spyware or not?
Did you target specific people named in news reports?
(With inputs from The Indian Express)