Assam: AASU's Samujjal, ULFA's Anup Chetia in List of Potential Pegasus Targets
A Manipuri writer who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act was also identified as a probable target.
Advisor to the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) Samujjal Bhattacharjee and United Liberation Front of Assam's (ULFA) pro-talks leader Anup Chetia were identified as potential targets of Israeli spyware Pegasus.
As per a report by The Wire, a technical examination of a phone’s data is imperative to establish if these numbers were surveilled.
However, the presence of these numbers indicated that they were distinguished as possible candidates for surveillance.
Samujjal Bhattacharjee's Significance
Samujjal Bhattacharjee's name was among the thousands of numbers analysed by the Pegasus Project partners, The Wire reported.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 16 July, 2019, had reconstituted a ‘high-level committee’ for the implementation of Clause 6, a salient part of the Assam Accord. Bhattacharjee's was one of the new members of this panel.
This move gained significance amid the Narendra Modi government's plan to amend the Citizenship Act (CAA), making it easier for Bangladeshi Hindu migrants settled in Assam to be granted citizenship.
With the country already demonstrating against the CAA, the reconstitution of the committee also led to dissent in state.
Bhattarcharjee's number was added less than a month before the reconstitution of the panel, The Wire reported.
Not surprised at All: Anup Chetia
Chetia was also identified as a possible target for surveillance during the latter part of 2018, The Wire reported.
As the general secretary of the ULFA (Progressive), he had take an important role in ULFA’s peace talks with the MHA in May 2018 and demanded the elimination of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, rallying for the act to not be implemented in in the state.
Speaking to The Wire, he said, “I have two numbers. All the time, the police keeps listening to my conversations. I am not surprised at all. One number was given to me by the Assam Police itself after I was released from jail (in 2015). So it would be naive to think that there is no surveillance on me through that number.”
As per the report, Chetia's other number appeared in the data for a significant amount of time – from late 2018 to mid-2019.
It is not yet clear why these two numbers attracted the attention of the operator of the spyware, The Wire reported.
Additionally, the leaked data showed that Delhi-based Manipuri writer Malem Ningthouja was also picked as a potential target.
The potential surveillance occurred in mid-2019.
Speaking to the news publication, he said, "Many think I am with the Manipur Students' Union of Delhi (MSAD). But I am not a part of their organisational structure. Sometimes I have responded to them when invited to attend programmes. Since I interact with a cross-section of people, which includes pro-underground forces, the government thinks that I am with the underground groups, while those groups think I am a government stooge."
(Based on a report by The Wire)
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