Asia - Pacific

Uproar continues in India's parliament over spyware scandal

Ongoing parliament session sees frequent disruptions as opposition lawmakers demand probe into report on Pegasus spyware

Ahmad Adil   | 02.08.2021
Uproar continues in India's parliament over spyware scandal National Students Union of India (NSUI) activists protest against alleged phone tapping of journalists and politicians, and against Pegasus snooping row around Parliament House in New Delhi, India on August 2, 2021. Photo: Imtiyaz Khan - Anadolu Agency

NEW DELHI

Indian parliament continues to witness protests and disruptions from opposition lawmakers over the alleged use of spyware known as Pegasus.

On Monday, both houses of parliament were once again adjourned as opposition members of the chambers continued to demand an investigation into how the software, developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, was used in the country, according to a report last month.

As reported by the Indian news website The Wire, rights activists, journalists, political leaders, and others were among those who were potential targets for surveillance. The Wire was among the consortium of news outlets reporting about the leaked records initially accessed by Paris-based Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.

Controversy has erupted since the reports and the parliament's monsoon session, which began on July 19 and was marred by the protest, has seen little functioning.

The leader of the Indian National Congress party in the lower house of the parliament, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said on Monday that they wanted a discussion over the Pegasus matter.

"From the first day, we have wanted a discussion over farmers' issues, inflation, COVID-19. We want a discussion on this snooping issue," he said.

Congress spokeswoman Shama Mohamed told Anadolu Agency that the party is demanding a Supreme Court-monitored judicial probe.

"The main demand is we need to know whether the government of India has used it or not. Yes or No," she said. "If yes, we want to know why they have snooped on people. If not, which country was snooping on our people?... It is a matter of national security."

Indian Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, however, dismissed the issue as a "highly sensational story" and described the reports as an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its institutions.

Outside parliament, staff of many opposition parties has held protests at several points in the country, demanding a complete investigation.

The Indian Supreme Court is expected to take up the petitions seeking an independent probe into allegations of Pegasus software on Thursday.

Other than Pegasus, the other major point of conflict with the opposition parties and the government is the protests by farmers, who have been protesting since November last year, demanding a repeal of three recent farm laws.

NEW DELHI, INDIA -AUGUST 02, 2021 : National Students Union of India (NSUI) activists as they protest against alleged phone tapping of journalists and politicians, and against Pegasus snooping row, in New Delhi at near by Parliament House on August 2, 20

NEW DELHI, INDIA -AUGUST 02: National Students Union of India (NSUI) activists protest against alleged phone tapping of journalists and politicians, and against Pegasus snooping row around Parliament House in New Delhi, India on August 2, 2021. ( Imtiyaz Khan - Anadolu Agency )

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