NYT’s Pegasus report: Congress tears into Modi govt over snooping revelations
Pegasus was allegedly used in India to spy on opposition politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, among others. Illustration: Eunice Dhivya

NYT’s Pegasus report: Congress tears into Modi govt over snooping revelations

The Modi government was under fire on Saturday after an investigative report in The New York Times (NYT) said it had purchased the Pegasus spyware in 2017 as part of a $2-billion package for weapons, including a missile system, from Israel.

The opposition Congress held a press conference and said the government had “deceived” Parliament, and promised to raise the issue in the House on Monday, while Union minister VK Singh dismissed the NYT report.

Pegasus, made by Israeli firm NSO, has been making news over its alleged use for illegal surveillance of military and civil officers, politicians, activists, judges and journalists.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi accused the Modi government of “treason” on Twitter.

“Modi Government bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public. Govt functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason. The Modi Government has committed treason,” he wrote in Hindi.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told the press conference that the Congress had raised the issue in Parliament last year and would raise it again. He was accompanied by Congress general secretary (communication) Randeep Surjewala.

“The Modi government bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians, the public, government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary, all were targeted with phone-tapping. This is treason,” Surjewala said.

“The buck stops at the Prime Minister’s door. The BJP duped Parliament and misled the Supreme Court. They hijacked democracy in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election… In its sworn affidavit, the government had ‘unequivocally denied any and all of the allegations made against it’,” Surjewala added.

“Why did Modi Govt act like the enemies of India and use a warfare weapon against Indian citizens?” Kharge asked in a tweet.

The Congress has alleged the spyware can hack into mobile phones. “Data from SMS to family photos to WhatsApp chats is stolen in illegal ways and sent to Modi’s agencies. All these can be used against you,” Surjewala reportedly said.

The party has alleged that Pegasus was used against Rahul Gandhi and his staff, HD Deve Gowda, Siddaramaiah, HD Kumaraswamy, Vasundhara Raje, Smiriti Irani’s officer on special duty, Supreme Court judges, lawyers, activists and journalists.

The Congress on Saturday also said “we will seek accountability of the Prime Minister and his government on the floor of Parliament. And we will urge the Supreme Court to take suo motu note and issue appropriate penal proceedings against this government for deliberately deceiving the apex court”.

In Parliament, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had reportedly said the reports of India’s Pegasus use were “baseless” and “highly sensational”.

News agency PTI has reported that the Pegasus matter is being monitored by a committee under the Supreme Court and its report is awaited.

Union minister Singh, meanwhile, slammed the NYT. “Can you trust NYT?? They are known “Supari Media”,” he tweeted.

An international investigative consortium had claimed last year that many people were potentially targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

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