New Delhi – The urban Indians are shell-shocked at its government spending a lavish 14-million US dollars for purchasing a military-grade one-time spyware license from Israeli company NSO to hack about 70 mobile phone users including a few marked political opponents, a few so-called anti-government journalists and social bloggers.
With a dismal graph of Indian economy and the threat of third waves of pandemic looming large on India, the Modi government, political analysts here feel that spending such an amount was foolish and signaled the greed of Prime Minister Modi and his cronies to stay in power.
A journalist at editorial desk Rajesh Jha told VSP News that phone tapping is not new, it was evidenced in previous regimes too in India but Pegasus Project, which seemed to be true, gave a message to the Indian electorate that the Modi governance was under public scanner and his political party was sceptical about its victory at the next hustings.
Senior journalist Vinod Behl opined that every government does spy on journalists and politicians of opposition to keep itself abreast of what is going on. “Since, the social media is very active in today’s scenario, the phone tapping has been bloated a bit more,” he added.
Speaking to VSP News, media expert and documentary film maker Nasir Kamal found it irrelevant to highlight the issue at a time when the world was more preoccupied to brace itself against the wrath of the pandemic. Spying is part of the administrative acumen. “What I don’t understand is what was the need of tapping the mobiles with a costly spyware when the Prime Minister had the intelligence agencies could have done the similar work,” he said and added that Modi should be criticised on other serious issues like unemployment and the destruction of small businesses.
Meanwhile, the smart phones failed in proving smart defenders to prying eyes when over 200 people from over 22 countries including India, became victims of invasive spying by a Israeli based company, NSO, that, through its spyware named Pegasus, tapped their mobile phones for extracting data and stored their conversations of over 50,000 hours for their clients, mainly the governments.
This information was accessed by Freedom Voice Network better known as Forbidden Stories, a conglomerate of journalists from different parts of the world who collaborated to dig out stories on Pegasus project that became the official weapon of a few governments to keep a tab on a selected group of people.
This has sent shivers down the spine of social activists, political opponents, journalists and bloggers for the Israeli high-end Military grade spyware has the potential to extract even the deleted content exchanged among the mobile users under surveillance. According to Agnes Callamard, Secretary general of Amnesty International,“The numbers vividly show the abuse is widespread, placing journalists’ lives, those of their families and associates in danger, undermining freedom of the press and shutting down critical media,” In a media talk, he further said that the entire episode was about controlling public narrative, resisting scrutiny, suppressing any dissenting voice.
Indian government has, however, denied of any such interception of mobile or landline phones of certain people and said that it followed certain protocol of sanctions and authorisations.