The Shiv Sena on Thursday castigated the Modi government for its “inaction” after allegations that India used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware for illegal surveillance of politicians, journalists and activists.
“The people of the country will now have to view Pegasus as another associated branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax,” an editorial in the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana said.
The editorial said the alleged use of Pegasus spyware was an “assault on the freedom of the people of India” and a breach of trust. “It was expected that the Centre would take cognisance of the issue and take strict action...But the government did nothing,” the Shiv Sena said.
The party lauded West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for setting up a panel to investigate the allegations. It said chief ministers of other states too should safeguard the rights and civil liberties of citizens.
“She [Banerjee] did what the Centre was supposed to do,” the Shiv Sena said. “In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee fought like a tigress and won...She has done the job of awakening all.”
The editorial said it was “mysterious” that the Centre did not consider the allegations serious.
In an editorial on July 22, the Shiv Sena had said that the use of the Pegasus spyware was a “cyber attack on select Indians”. It added that the surveillance could not have been done without the Centre’s consent.
The Pegasus spyware is licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. The company insists that it licences its software only to “vetted governments” with good human-rights records and that Pegasus is intended to target criminals.
But a leaked list, featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”, was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. It became the basis of a global investigation called the Pegasus Project in which 17 media organisations collaborated.
Indian news website The Wire, which is among the participants in the project, reported that Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Prahlad Singh Patel, virologist Gagandeep Kang and former Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma were among the potential targets.
The controversy has become a rallying point for the Opposition against the central government. The Monsoon Session of Parliament has witnessed several disruptions since the surveillance row erupted on July 18.