Modi govt needs to come clean on the Pegasus spyware issue

Modi govt needs to answer if it bought Pegasus from NSO Group. Its argument that it was a move to embarrass India on the eve of the Monsoon session of Parliament simply does not wash

Representative Image
Representative Image

Sushil Kutty

The unveiling of the list of prominent people in India whose phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for hacking using the Pegasus spyware has created a huge furore. Called to defend the Modi Government, Union Home Minister Amit Shah resorted to his infamous “Aap Chronology Samajiye” line.

But what was there to ‘samajhiye’? The chronology dated back to a year before the 2019 general elections and the Pegasus spyware clearly targeted opposition leaders, journalists, bureaucrats, an SC judge and even BJP’s own leaders.

Pegasus infected mobile phones and remained undetected till a global consortium of 17 entities unearthed a spying extravaganza. Part of the conspiracy was to infect 300 Indian mobile phones with Pegasus.

The needle fell squarely on the Modi Government. Israel’s NSO Group, owner of the Pegasus spyware, said it sold Pegasus only to “vetted Governments”. But ‘hackers’ say Pegasus is also available on the ‘dark web’, for a hefty price.

The Modi Government should come clean, admit or refute whether it bought Pegasus from NSO Group. The company has washed its hands off the hacking scandal, threatening to sue the 17-member global consortium with defamation.

So it boils down to the Modi Government. Did it buy Pegasus from NSO Group? The Modi Government is avoiding answering the question, hiding behind the argument that it was a move to embarrass India on the eve of the Monsoon session of Parliament.

All that there was from Amit Shah was obfuscation, which prompted people to ask whether ‘snoopgate’ was India’s ‘Watergate’, President Richard Nixon’s Waterloo?

Amit Shah’s line of argument was fallacious. Who was defaming India and who was ‘disruptor and obstructer’ was not for Shah to decide, declare.

The much vaunted Amit Shah couldn’t do better than Modi’s IT minister Ashwini Vaishnav who said the list of "potential targets” of Pegasus was “baseless” and “purposely published a day before Monsoon session.”

India’s citizens are aware enough to realise that “snooping on citizens” by governments have ramifications and there are dangers involved. Governments can mount surveillance on the “enemies” of India – terrorists and child killers, women molesters. But governments cannot spy on political rivals and prominent citizens.

Shah and Modi cannot hide behind “give us evidence”. The Centre is duty-bound to order an inquiry, an independent investigation under a sitting judge to get to the bottom of the hacking and snooping.

(IPA Service)

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