New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “treason”, demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the allegations of surveillance using Pegasus spyware, and called for the resignation of Union home minister Amit Shah.
“Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon, and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists,” Gandhi told reporters outside parliament, and charged that “the Prime Minister and home minister have used Pegasus against us”.
“They [the prime minister and home minister] have used this weapon against the Indian state and our institutions. They have used it politically, they have used it in Karnataka. The only word for this is treason,” Gandhi said, as reported by the Indian Express.
Gandhi termed the allegations uncovered by the Pegasus Project – a global consortium of news organisations, including The Wire – as a matter of ‘sedition’ as he led his party MPs in a protest demonstration near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Parliament House to demand a probe into what the Congress has termed as the #PegasusSnoopgate.
The investigation exposes the use of Pegasus spyware by clients of the Israeli NSO Group. While the company has said that it sells the military grade spyware only to “vetted governments” for use against terrorists and criminal groups, forensic analysis by the Pegasus Project has confirmed that evidence of the spyware was found on the phones of activists and journalists. So far, The Wire has revealed the names of more than 130 people, including that of Gandhi, who figure on the leaked list of probable targets of clients of the NSO Group.
Lashing out at the Modi government for not allowing a proper probe into the allegations of illegal surveillance, Gandhi, while speaking to reporters outside parliament asked why a tool that was used against terrorists was being deployed to target elected representatives and others.
Gandhi also charged that he was a victim of the snooping scandal. “My phone was tapped. It’s not a matter of Rahul Gandhi’s privacy. I am an Opposition leader and I raise the voice of the people. This is an attack on the voice of the people. Home minister should resign and there should be a Supreme Court inquiry against Narendra Modi,” he said.
However, as The Wire has made it clear, even though Gandhi’s number appears on the leaked database, it is impossible to say without a forensic analysis of his phone whether there were a successful or attempted Pegasus attack.
Subsequently, the Congress and other opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, also protested strongly against the issue in Lok Sabha. In view of the protests, the house was later adjourned till Monday.
In the Rajya Sabha too, the issue hogged the limelight as opposition members continued to protest over the Pegasus row.
The Pegasus row rocked the parliament on Thursday as information technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw continued to denounce reports that the spyware could have been used to snoop on opposition leaders, activists, journalists and others. The Rajya Sabha witnessed high drama when Trinamool Congress MP Santanu Sen snatched a statement on the Pegasus issue from the hands of Vaishnaw and tore it, following which he was asked to leave the Upper House by deputy chairperson Harivansh, leading to loud protests from the opposition. Sen was suspended until the end of the monsoon session.
During the argument on the issue, the opposition charged that they were not given a proper opportunity to respond. TMC leader Derek O’Brien and MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said Sen should have been allowed to say what he had to and claimed that he was also roughed up on Thursday. The House was adjourned as TMC members continued to protest against the suspension of their party member, and the Pegasus issue.
The Congress also protested to mount pressure on the government to order a probe into the Pegasus revelations. Holding a banner which read “#PegsusSnoopGate: We Demand Supreme Court Monitored Judicial Probe”, the Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary and the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, among others, demanded an apex court-monitored probe into the issue.
Gandhi also tweeted about the protest.
#PegasusSnoopgate देशद्रोह का मामला है।
हमारी सीधी सी माँग है- सुप्रीम कोर्ट की निगरानी में इसकी न्यायिक जाँच हो ताकि देश को पता चले कि ये देशद्रोह किसके कहने पर किया गया- PM या HM? pic.twitter.com/65A3aIb4XQ
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 23, 2021
Meanwhile, the issue of the ongoing farmers’ protests against the amendments to the three farms laws last year, was also raised by Opposition members in both the Houses.
A group of 200 farmers on Thursday reached Jantar Mantar to protest against these contentious farm laws. Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal has given special permission for demonstration by a maximum of 200 farmers at Jantar Mantar, a few metres from the Parliament house, until August 9.
The farmers have been continuously demanding a repeal of the three farm laws and farmer leader Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union had also urged the MPs to raise the issue inside parliament.