Shiv Sena compares 'Pegasus attack' to Hiroshima bombing
The Shiv Sena on Sunday compared the “Pegasus attack” to the Hiroshima bombing, saying “freedom is dead now” and alleging a pervasive “fear of snooping” in the country.
Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said a smart phone now resembled a “bomb planted in the hand”, that the Narendra Modi government was peeping into “bedrooms” and that “we are being pushed towards slavery”.
The Congress wondered why the Centre had not yet answered the simple question whether any government agency in India had used the Israeli spyware.
“The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima were no different from the Pegasus attack. People died then, freedom is dead now,” Raut wrote in Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
He said the fear spawned by the surveillance on judges, journalists, rights activists, businessmen and politicians was not healthy for freedom or national security.
He recalled that a leading businessman he had met recently was carrying a basic phone as it was safer.
“Hundreds of crores are being spent. Reports suggest Rs 60 crore is required for (renewing the) licence every year to use Pegasus. Who is bearing the cost?” Raut wrote.
“Former telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said 45 countries were using Pegasus and asked why India should be singled out. He confirmed the use of Pegasus. Who (else) in India has the wherewithal to use such a spyware?”
P. Chidambaram, former Union minister for home and finance, too said the government needed to answer which agency was using Pegasus. The Congress leader asserted that Prime Minister Modi should himself make a statement in Parliament.
In an interview to PTI, Chidambaram said: “If the Pegasus spyware was used, who acquired it? Was it acquired by the government or by one of its agencies?”
He added: “Was it a rogue agency in India doing it without the knowledge of the government or was it a foreign agency hacking into Indian telephones without the knowledge of the government? Either way, it is a more serious matter than the government conducting the surveillance.”
Chidambaram said a probe by a joint parliamentary committee or one monitored by the Supreme Court was a must.
He emphasised that none of the ministers had yet denied the use of the Pegasus spyware — they had only made “clever” statements to try and wriggle out of the situation.
“Communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is obviously a very clever minister and therefore the statement has been very cleverly worded,” Chidambaram said.
“He denies that there was any unauthorised surveillance. He does not deny that there was surveillance. He does not deny that there was authorised surveillance.”
Rahul Gandhi, who has used the controversy to accuse the Prime Minister and home minister Amit Shah of treason, tweeted: “Pegasus: benefits for friends and surveillance of opponents. Aam ke aam, guthliyon ke daam (Two at the price of one).”
Raut, who wondered why the government was averse to any investigation, wrote: “How dirty has politics become. We have to face it daily. More so in Delhi. The Modi government has intruded into people’s bedrooms.
“Why have mostly those people been targeted who are not blind bhakts of Modi? Those people who are not ready to accept the government’s slavery have been targeted.
“The fear of snooping has affected everybody — politicians, activists, journalists, businessmen. The judiciary and the media are working under pressure. The open atmosphere in the national capital has ended over the last few years. A phone is like a bomb planted in the hand. Information about your daily routine is collected.”
The Congress too ran a campaign on social media on the attack on individual freedom. It posted screenshots of Google searches, arguing people were concerned only about negative issues like surveillance and a vaccine shortage.