Congress attacks government after Pegasus row reignites | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Congress attacks government after Pegasus row reignites

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj
Jan 30, 2022 04:43 AM IST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of treason for allegedly “tapping” phones of Opposition leaders, armed forces and the judiciary using the Pegasus spyware.

New Delhi: The central government has “hijacked democracy” and misled Parliament and the Supreme Court, the Congress and other opposition parties alleged on Saturday after a report in the New York Times said India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as a part of a $2-billion deal in 2017.

New Delhi, Jan 21 (ANI): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the press at the launch of the Youth Manifesto for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, at party headquarters, in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI Photo/Rahul Singh) (Rahul Singh)
New Delhi, Jan 21 (ANI): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the press at the launch of the Youth Manifesto for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, at party headquarters, in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI Photo/Rahul Singh) (Rahul Singh)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of treason for allegedly “tapping” phones of Opposition leaders, armed forces and the judiciary using the Pegasus spyware.

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“The 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,” Gandhi said on Twitter. “The Modi Government has committed treason.”

The Congress said it will raise the issue in the budget session of Parliament starting on Monday, and demand accountability from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party government.

Opposition parties also urged the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the matter and initiate appropriate penal proceedings against the government for attempting to “deliberately and knowingly deceive” it.

The ministry of electronics and information technology did not immediately respond to queries by HT.

HT reached out to the DG Press Information Bureau (PIB) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for a response but the requests remained unanswered.

Also Read | VK Singh calls NYT ‘supari media’ after report on Pegasus spy tool row

On July 19 last year, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in Parliament that reports suggesting India used Pegasus to hack phones of journalists, activists and ministers were nothing but an “attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions”.

In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on August 16, the government refused to confirm or deny whether it used Pegasus spyware for surveilling Indians.

The Modi government “deceived” Parliament as well as “duped” the Supreme Court, Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged in a media briefing on Saturday.

The Israeli military-grade spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the centrepieces of a roughly $2-billion deal between India and Israel in 2017, the New York Times reported on January 28, without citing the basis for this information.

“It is now very clear that Parliament was deceived by the Modi government, the Supreme Court was also duped and the people of India were lied to by the Modi government and its ministers,” Surjewala said. “We will seek accountability from the Prime Minister on the floor of the Parliament.”

“It is treason, it is hijack of democracy and it is a systematic deception and attack on the fundamental rights of privacy and dismantling of national security considering who all were spied upon illegally and unconstitutionally by this government,” he alleged.

When the government was “not ready to discuss the issue of Pegasus on our demand (during the monsoon session of Parliament), it showed that they wanted to hide something from the people of the country,” said Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress and leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

It would have been fine if the government used Pegasus for the safety and security of the country, but “they are using it against Opposition leaders, ministers and government functionaries, the judiciary and the media”, Kharge said at the briefing.

“They spoke a lie in Parliament,” he alleged. “If the government has courage, it should file a defamation suit against the New York Times.”

The Left parties also demanded an explanation from the government and said its silence was an “acceptance of criminal activity”.

“The (Narendra) Modi government must explain on affidavit why it bought this cyber weapon, who gave the permission for its usage, how were the targets selected and who got these reports?” Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), tweeted on Saturday. “Silence on such a critical issue only means an acceptance of its criminal activity.”

The government hid the truth on the issue from Parliament and they must be held accountable, said D Raja, general secretary of the Communist Party of India.

“Now it is clear that the government was hiding some truths about the Pegasus spyware even from Parliament. Now, they have been exposed,” Raja said. “The government should answer. Silence only means that they have indulged in wrongdoing.”

(With agency inputs)

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