Pegasus scandal reminds one of Macbeth

In light of revelations made by Pegasus Project, which the Modi govt has refused to own up to, it is ironic that the BJP came to power in 2014 by touting political probity as one of its goals

Representative Image
Representative Image

Amitabh Srivastava

The denial by the Modi government following the revelations of the Pegasus spyware reminds one of 'Macbeth' where one of the Three Witches assures Macbeth who had usurped the King's throne that:

'Macbeth shall never vanquished be,

Until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him.'

Act 4 Scene 1

Which means that no one will be able to defeat Macbeth unless the forests of Birnam Wood reach the Palace. Ultimately, the soldiers of his enemies cut down the trees of the forest to hide themselves and reach his palace.

Does the Modi government actually feel safe by spying on its rivals including its own ministers, prominent opposition leaders, journalists and other influential opinion makers? Or is it jeopardising the security of the country?

Pegasus scandal reminds one of Macbeth

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram maintains it is a matter of national security because "if the government says that it did not conduct surveillance, then the question arises who conducted the snooping".

The statements coming from the makers of the NSO Group, which developed Pegasus, add insult to injury. "Millions of people around the world are sleeping well at night, and safely walking in the streets, thanks to Pegasus and similar technologies which help intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies around the world to prevent and investigate crime, terrorism, and paedophilia rings..." it says.

What this has to do with names in India that have figured in the list, with the issue having stalled Parliament for the last one week, including industrialist Anil Ambani, well known journalists, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, two of BJP's own Union Ministers and a woman staffer of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is unclear.

While several countries of the world are busy investigating how the Israeli spyware entered their country to enable snooping, the BJP government is claiming that all this noise is an excuse by the Opposition to hold the Parliament to ransom.

Now that even Israel has promised to look into the working of Pegasus developer NSO Group and its licensing policy, government of India's denial of any wrongdoing on its part stands out like a sore thumb.

Spying on rivals is not exactly new in Indian politics but hiring an international agency to spy on so many prominent personalities only proves the insecurity of a regime headed by a Prime Minister who has not held a single press conference in India since 2014.

Ironically, this government came to power in 2014 by touting political probity as one of its goals.

To me, the imagery of the forests marching to the capital as predicted by three Witches is almost coming true under this regime.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on record as having said in an interview to Sunetra Choudhury of the Hindustan Times on May 2, 2019: "Inviting ISI to investigate the Pathankot Air Base terror attack is the biggest strategic blunder committed by the Modi Government. This demoralised our Armed Forces."

And now come the revelations about the deployment of this Israeli spyware that has spread its tentacles all across the globe.

Slowly and surely, the spies, the worms and the pests holding nameless trees to hide their real identity, like the army of trees in Macbeth, are making India their home.

We have to be extra vigilant to safeguard our freedom because the government of the day is hell bent on stalling every attempt to reveal the extent of the damage it has caused.

We cannot keep our eyes closed because as per a Washington Post news report, the victims of the spyware include three sitting presidents: France’s Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa. Three current prime ministers, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani are also said to be on the list. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was also a potential target, as per reports.

Seven former prime ministers who also found a mention in the list – Yemen’s Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, France’s Édouard Philippe, Kazakhstan’s Bakitzhan Sagintayev, Algeria’s Noureddine Bedoui and Belgium’s Charles Michel – were allegedly targeted while still in office.

(Views are personal)

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