New Delhi: In the aftermath of a global media consortium, including The Wire, releasing reports that indicate attempted and successful surveillance of politicians, journalists, activists and others, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Wednesday, July 21, claimed that his government has authentic information that representatives of the Israeli company NSO, which manufactures the Pegasus spyware, had visited the state in a secret mission when it was being governed by the BJP.
Baghel said the officials had gone to the state when Raman Singh was chief minister and met “some people”.
Addressing a press conference in Raipur, Baghel said that a committee will be constituted by his government to probe into the matter, as to what was the deal about, who did the representatives of NSO meet, among other things.
“The NSO representatives indeed came here [Chhattisgarh] and met some people. Although we don’t have details of what the deal was about, and whom they met, the issue is that they did come here. Raman Singh has to explain what the deal was about and whom they met,” he added. Baghel spoken in Hindi and the translation is The Wire‘s.
However, this is not the first time that the Baghel government has constituted a committee to probe illegal surveillance using Pegasus spyware. It had also constituted a committee in late 2019 when the issue Pegasus first surfaced, and reportedly about 100 activists from the state had been targeted via WhatsApp. A three-member committee had been constituted at the time, but the government has not not come out with any findings so far.
Speaking about the latest spyware attacks on a number of high-profile Indians, Baghel demanded that the Union government come clean by instituting an inquiry. He pointed out that if the stated position of NSO is to sell its service only to “vetted governments”, then a question can be asked on whether the government of India availed itself of this service.
“The government of India has to explain…What is the reason for such surveillance? How much has been paid? How long is the deal?” he said.
He said when “other countries have instituted investigations, why can’t India, a democracy, can investigate the matter” and come clean.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a probe into allegations by investigative news website Mediapart and two of its journalists that they had been spied on using Pegasus spyware.
The Wire, in collaboration with 16 other media organisations, over the last few days has been disclosing the names of people who were either targets or potential targets for surveillance by clients of the Pegasus spyware. Those targeted include heads of state, political figures, activists, student leaders, lawyers and journalists, among others.
The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read all our coverage here.