Family members of PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, a former ally of the BJP, some Delhi-based Kashmiri journalists, key separatist leaders, human rights activists, business persons are among the people listed as potential targets of Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’ – available only to governments – in the latest tranche of explosive revelations by news portal The Wire.
The Wire, which is part of a media consortium investigating alleged surveillance using Pegasus, said at least two members of Peoples Democratic party (PDP) chief and former chief minister of Jammu And Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti’s family were on the list.
Their selection as potential targets of surveillance happened when Ms Mufti was still the chief minister of the erstwhile state and in a coalition with the BJP, The Wire said.
Ms Mufti’s family members were chosen for potential surveillance just months before the government collapsed as the BJP pulled out of the coalition in June 2018, it said.
The leak also shows that the current head of the Hurriyat conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was a potential target of surveillance between 2017 and 2019, according to the report. Separatist leader Bilal Lone and the late SAR Geelani, who worked as a lecturer in Delhi University and died in 2018, were also on the list.
J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari’s brother Tariq Bukhari is also in the list which also has at least four members of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s family, The Wire said.
The France-based journalism non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and international human rights advocacy group Amnesty International accessed a massive list of 50,000 numbers which are believed to have been selected as potential targets of surveillance by 10 countries.
The records were then shared with a group of 16 media houses across the world – including The Wire – who worked collaboratively to investigate the scope of this intended or actual surveillance over several months in an initiative termed as the Pegasus Project.
Rahul Gandhi, poll savant Prashant Kishor, two current Union Ministers – Prahlad Patel and Ashwini Vaishnaw – virologist Gagandeep Kang, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa were among the big names in the list released earlier.
The government has maintained that there has been no unauthorised interception by its agencies, adding that allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever.
“In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by Indian State. Those reports also had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Indian Supreme Court.
“This news report, thus, also appears to be a similar fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions,” it said in a detailed statement.