Opposition parties disrupt Parliament, seek probe into Pegasus

Opposition parties disrupted parliament on Tuesday, de­ma­nding an investigation into re­p­orts that the government used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to snoop on scores of journalists, activists and politici­ans, including the main Opp­o­sition leader Rahul Gandhi.

Shouting out slogans agai­nst Prime Minister Nare­ndra Modi’s government, the Opp­osition members said they wanted an independent probe into the complaints of spying and the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah.

An investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organizations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said spyware made and licensed by the Israeli company NSO had been used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists.

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Indian news portal The Wire reported that smartpho­nes of politicians, including Gandhi, and two other lawmakers were among 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets for surveillance during 2017-19 ahead of national elections. NSO has said its product was intended only for use by vetted government intellige­nce and law enforcement age­ncies to fight terrorism and crime.

Opposition leaders said the Modi administration was spying on journalists, activists and politicians who were opposed to its policies. “It is an attack on the democratic foundations of our country,” Congress said.

It said the government had illegally accessed the conversation of many people by hacking cell phones with the Pegasus spyware.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the minister for Electronics and Information Technology, told lawmakers on Monday there was no substance to the reports of spying.

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