According to a report in The New York Times, the Pegasus spyware and a missile system were the ‘centrepieces’ of a roughly two-billion-dollar deal between India and Israel in 2017.

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news Pegasus Row Saturday, January 29, 2022 - 17:30

The Congress and other left parties on Saturday, January 29, attacked the Union government over a New York Times report which claimed that the Indian government bought the Pegasus spy tool in 2017 as part of a deal with Israel, alleging that the government indulged in illegal snooping using the spyware which amounts to ‘treason’. The parties demanded the government's explanation over the report and said that its silence was an ‘acceptance of criminal activity’.

According to the report, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the ‘centerpieces’ of a roughly two-billion US dollars worth deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the Union government led by PM Modi government "bought" Pegasus to "spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public". "Government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason. Modi government has committed treason", he tweeted.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge also said on Twitter, "Why did Modi government act like the enemies of India and use a warfare weapon against Indian citizens? Illegal snooping using Pegasus amounts to treason. No one is above the law and we will ensure that justice is served," he said.

Sharing the report in a tweet, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, "The (Narendra) Modi government must explain in an affidavit why it bought this cyber weapon, who gave the permission for its usage, how were the targets selected and who got these reports? Silence on such a critical issue only means an acceptance of its criminal activity."

Citing the media report, Congress spokesperson Shama Mohammed said that this was "irrefutable proof" that the BJP government used military grade spyware to snoop on the citizens of India, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi. There must be accountability, she demanded.

Rajya Sabha MP and senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that the "revelations" in the report imply that the government "misled" the Supreme Court and Parliament on the issue. ‘Why is Narendra Modi silent? It is his duty to clarify. New York Times revelations today that It did indeed subscribe by payment from tax payers money of Rs 300 crores to spyware Pegasus sold by Israeli NSO company. This implies that our Government misled the Supreme Court & Parliament," Gohil said in a tweet.

Reacting to the report, Congress' deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi alleged in a tweet, "PM Modi went to Israel to purchase weapons to counter terrorism and instead used it on his own civilians including journalists, judges, bureaucrats and opposition politicians." In a tweet, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged the spyware was used not for defence purposes but to snoop on opposition and journalists. If there is BJP, it is possible. They have made the country into a Bigg Boss show," she said in a tweet in Hindi.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said, "Modi government must rebut New York Times revelations today that it did indeed subscribe by payment from tax payers money of Rs 300 crores to spyware Pegasus sold by Israeli NSO company. This implies prima facie our government misled the Supreme Court and Parliament. Watergate?" he tweeted.

An international investigative consortium had claimed last year that many people including Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the NSO Group's phone hacking software. The Supreme Court had set up a three-member independent expert panel to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance in India. The government had denied all allegations made against it in the matter.

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