'Treason': PM Modi, Home Minister Used Pegasus Against Indian State, Claims Rahul Gandhi
10:31 GMT 23.07.2021 (Updated: 10:37 GMT 19.07.2022)
© AP Photo / Anupam NathIndia's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi speaks at a rally against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Gauhati, India, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019
© AP Photo / Anupam Nath
The ripple effects of the Pegasus Project probe have severely affected the ongoing Monsoon Session of the federal parliament, as opposition groups accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of using the Israeli spyware to subvert Indian democracy. The government has denied the snooping claims.
India's key opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of employing the Pegasus spyware against the state, labelling it as "treason".
"Pegasus is classified as weapon and that weapon is used against terrorists", stated Gandhi, who is also a parliamentarian from the main federal opposition party Congress.
“Our demand is very straightforward. There should be an investigation into the Pegasus spyware row so that it could be determined who was responsible for ordering the snooping — the prime minister or the home minister”, Gandhi also said in a tweet in Hindi.
The sharp political attack by Gandhi came during a protest by Congress politicians in the parliament house on Friday during the ongoing Monsoon Session.
According to a joint investigation conducted by Forbidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International, Pegasus has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers in more than 50 countries since 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is accused of having employed the Pegasus spyware to snoop on nearly 300 Indian phone numbers. Almost 40 of them reportedly belong to senior journalists, political opponents, government officials, and two federal ministers.
Both the Indian government and the Israeli firm, however, have denied the allegations.
Two mobile numbers used by Gandhi were also reportedly shortlisted as surveillance targets by a client of the Israeli software company NSO Group, which developed the Pegasus spyware. While one mobile number was on the radar a year before the parliamentary elections, another device was a possible target immediately after the election ended in May 2019.
“And the person responsible for it is [none other] than the Home Minister of India -- Amit Shah. Of course, it could not be done without the consent and concurrence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is an unforgivable sacrilege and negation of Constitutional oath by the Home Minister and the Prime Minister”, claimed Mallikarjun Kharge, veteran Congress parliamentarian and leader of the opposition in the parliament’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha.
The Indian government has already denied the snooping claims, with the minister of state (MoS) for external affairs even terming the whole probe as “fake”. Home Minister Shah has accused the Congress party of “humiliating India” on the world stage by levelling the allegations against the government.
"This is a report by the disrupters for the obstructers. Disrupters are global organisations that do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress. People of India are very good at understanding this chronology and connection", Shah said on 19 July.