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Opposition Unites Over Pegasus Project, BJP Continues To Deny Snooping

Sachin Pilot said, "If the government doesn't have to hide anything, they shouldn't run away from it."

Published
India
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Opposition unites over Pegasus Project, BJP continues to deny snooping</p></div>
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Opposition parties in India seem to have found a common crisis in the Pegasus Project to unite against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, as the leaked surveillance list of the Pegasus Project continue to expose details about the extent of possible surveillance done in India.

While addressing the people on Martyr’s Day, Bengal Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee called India a “surveillance state” and said: “Three things make democracy - media, judiciary and the Election Commission, and Pegasus has captured all three.”

Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath has demanded a probe into the matter by the Supreme Court, saying that the Union government should clarify whether the spyware was purchased for "national security or Modi security", news agency PTI reported.

The government, however, has continued to dismiss allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying it "has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever".

Seeing a unity being formed among the opposition parties, the BJP has fielded state chief ministers including Yogi Adityanath, Manohar Lal Khattar, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Vijay Rupani, Jai Ram Thakur and Uttarakhand’s new chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to counter claims of targeted surveillance.

Supreme Court Should Investigate This Matter: Congress

Honing its attack on the BJP, several Congress leaders have demanded the Supreme Court to investigate, saying that the alleged surveillance is an attack on India’s Constitution and democracy.

Congress leader Sachin pilot said on Wednesday, “It's an issue raised in Parliament by Congress. It includes violation of privacy, national security, Official Secrets Act. It must be investigated independently and if the government doesn't have to hide anything, they shouldn't run away from it”, news agency ANI reported.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole was quoted as saying, “Congress demands Supreme Court judges should investigate this matter (Pegasus) and truth should come out. We will hold a protest in front of the Governor's house tomorrow and will request for President's intervention in the matter.”

Congress leader KC Venugopal has, on his part, alleged that the BJP had used the spyware to topple the Congress-JDS government in Karnataka.

‘Nothing Personal, Modi Ji’: Mamata Banerjee

Calling the spyware product of Israeli cyberweapons company NSO Group "dangerous" and "ferocious", Banerjee said, "I cannot talk to you people. To Sharad Pawar, Delhi Chief Minister, Goa Chief Minister... I have put leucoplast on my (phone) camera. This government should also be plastered over", NDTV reported.

Appealing to the Supreme Court, she said, "Save the country, the democracy. Can't you take suo motu cognisance as all phones are tapped? Set up a panel to probe. Only judiciary can save country".

She added, "Mr Modi, don't mind. I am not attacking you personally. But you and may be the Home Minister - you are deploying agencies against opposition leaders. You are misusing the agencies."

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International Conspiracy: UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

Revisiting the international conspiracy theory, UP CM Adityanath said, “The opposition parties including the Congress are involved in dirty and controversial politics even when the country is in the midst of a pandemic”, The Wire reported.

He added, “The opposition, knowingly or unknowingly, is falling prey to the international conspiracy.”

Similarly, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “The story was broken by certain international media and some news portals in India and they have said that Amnesty International is the partner. We all know the role of Amnesty – they are encouraging all along left-wing terrorism in India and they are working overnight to defame India globally. We know all the credibility of Amnesty”, India Today reported.

Meanwhile, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani said, “Congress has enjoyed power for many decades…now (without power) it is gasping for air like a fish out of water…It is making efforts to come back to power at the expense of damaging the reputation of the country at international level but it is not going to succeed”, Indian Express reported.

Some Background

A report published by an Indian online news portal on Sunday, 18 July, revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus 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.

Pegasus, a product of Israeli cyberweapons company NSO Group, was earlier in the news in late 2019 when it was found that spies used the spyware to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users around the world, including 121 Indians.

The leaked list of names was provided to The Wire and 15 other international news organisations by France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International, as part of a collaborative investigation called the 'Pegasus Project'.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI, Indian Express, NDTV and India Today)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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