BJP Government Must Answer: Who Authorised Illegal Surveillance of Indians?
CPI(M) Polit Bureau has issued the following statement on July 19, 2021
VERY concerning information has emerged on the government of India procuring the Pegasus spyware from an Israeli firm, NSO, the worldwide leader in cyber surveillance. NSO has categorically clarified that it deals only with “vetted” governments. These investigations reveal a large number of journalists and human rights activists have been targeted for hacking their smart phones for surveillance. Globally more than 50,000 instances concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the NSO have surfaced. Among the countries mentioned is India in the company of Rwanda, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Mexico etc.
This report says, “In India, the numbers of phones belonging to hundreds of journalists, activists, opposition politicians, government officials and business executives were on the snooping list”. Reports in Indian media have named at least 40 journalists who are under surveillance of this spy software, Pegasus.
Two years ago, the CPI(M) had raised in parliament that this dangerous spyware was being used in India as revealed by WhatsApp. The Modi government’s response had not categorically denied that it engaged the services of NSO but claimed that there is no “unauthorised surveillance”.
With these revelations, it is clear that this government has engaged NSO for such surveillance against its own citizens. The central government must come clean on what is its engagement with NSO, what are the terms and how much our public funds have been paid for this.
Use of a cyber spy software to hack smart phones even by the government is prohibited under Indian laws. Under what law has the government undertaken such surveillance activities over citizens? The right to privacy is a fundamental right as laid down by the Supreme Court, but this BJP government is prevaricating on legislating the privacy law.
Earlier instances of hacking smart phones and computers of human rights activists have been exposed. Material is digitally planted on their devices. It is then used for their arrests under draconian laws.
This is unacceptable levels of authoritarianism employing fascistic methods. The ‘snoop, plant, arrest’ formula employed by this BJP government is a violation of the fundamental rights of Indian citizens.
The BJP central government must answer and come clean on using the Pegasus cyber software for surveillance of Indian citizens in an illegal and unauthorised manner.