Pegasus is Israeli weapon, Centre used it against India: Rahul, Chidambaram hit out at Modi government

NEW DELHI: Attacking the Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said Pegasus spyware is an Israeli classified weapon that the government has used against the institutions of the country.

“Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists. The Prime Minister and Home Minister have used this against the Indian state and against our institutions,” said Rahul Gandhi.

“They have used it politically…They have used it in Karnataka. They have used it to scuttle probes. They have used it against Supreme Court… They have used it against all the institutions of this country. The only word for this is treason. There is no other word for this,” added the Congress leader.

Earlier today, Congress, DMK and Shiv Sena MPs protested against the alleged Pegasus snooping controversy in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue inside Parliament premises on Friday.

The protesting MPs demanded a Supreme Court-monitored judicial probe in this matter.

The MPs carried banners with the slogan “#Pegausus Snoop Gate”.

Earlier on Thursday, TMC MP Santanu Sen snatched the statement on Pegasus matter from Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in Rajya Sabha and tore it into pieces, amid the ongoing standoff over the Pegasus issue between the Centre and Opposition.

The Opposition has alleged that names of several Indian politicians, journalists, lawyers, and activists have appeared on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware. This comes following reports published in The Wire. 

Backing Rahul, party leader P Chidambaram on Friday compared India’s response to the matter with that of France and Israel, saying while those countries are examining the allegations, India has denied any unauthorised surveillance and refused to debate it.

The Congress on Thursday held protest marches at many places across the country demanding a Supreme Court-monitored judicial enquiry into the alleged snooping of phones using Israeli Pegasus spyware and the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah over the matter.

The government and the ruling BJP have dismissed the Pegasus Project reports as concocted and evidence-less.

On Friday, Chidambaram took to Twitter to say, “On the scale of freedom, rank India against a liberal democracy like France and a stern democracy like Israel.”

“France orders an investigation and calls a meeting of its National Security Council. Israel established a commission to review the allegations of phone surveillance. India denied that there was any unauthorised surveillance and refused to even debate the matter,” the former Union home minister said on the microblogging site.

On Sunday, an international media consortium reported that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of businesspersons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the spyware.

The reports have been published by The Wire in collaboration with 16 other international publications including the Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde, as media partners to an investigation conducted by Paris-based media non-profit organisation Forbidden Stories and rights group Amnesty International.

The investigation focuses on a leaked list of more than 50,000 phone numbers from across the world that are believed to have been the target of surveillance through the Pegasus software of Israeli surveillance company NSO Group.

(With PTI Inputs)