Pegasus row: Assam’s chief minister has demanded that Amnesty International be banned for its role in snooping

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday demanded a ban on Amnesty International’s activities in India due to its role in the Pegasus snooping scandal.

The BJP leader also claimed that the entire controversy was the result of a “international conspiracy by Left-wing organisations, including Amnesty International,” to defame the Narendra Modi-led Central government.

An international media consortium reported on Sunday that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers in India, including those of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders, and one sitting judge, as well as scores of businesspeople and activists, could have been targeted for hacking using the Pegasus spyware.

These phone numbers were obtained from a list of over 50,000 obtained by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and the human rights organisation Amnesty International.

With the opposition seizing the issue to attack Modi’s government, several BJP leaders rushed to defend the government and launch a counter-attack on the rival Congress and others on Tuesday.

“Various Left-wing organisations around the world, including Amnesty International, are part of the conspiracy theory,” Sarma said at a press conference in this city.

“They clearly want to discredit India’s democracy. I demand that Amnesty International’s activities in India be immediately prohibited “, he explained.

There had been evidences before, but with this recent expose, it is clear that Amnesty can go to any length to defame India’s democratic fabric, Sarma added.

He chastised newspapers such as the Washington Post for failing to report on how many people are dying from COVID in which states or how America is combating it, instead focusing on what Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing.

“I categorically condemn Amnesty International and warn them not to try this again.” They will be exposed if they attempt to undermine our country’s unity and integrity, he said.

The chief minister also claimed that a “large international conspiracy” is underway to defame India and undermine its democratic system, and that the Pegasus controversy is part of that larger scheme.

“There was uproar over the oxygen issue, and when India successfully controlled the second COVID wave, they moved on to the Pegasus controversy. In the interim, there was the toolkit debate “he claimed.

He pointed out that the Parliament should have been debating how to save the country from the third wave or how to save the economy, but on the eve of the meeting, the Pegasus controversy erupted.

The chief minister questioned the timing of making the Pegasus controversy public just a day before the start of the Parliament session, saying that “whenever India approaches some milestone, international conspiracy both from outside the country and within begins immediately.”

He demanded that those involved in the conspiracy be investigated and brought to justice.

Concerning those accusing the government of snooping on the basis of the Pegasus controversy, Sarma stated that those whose names appear on the purported list can have their devices forensically examined to determine whether or not their devices were hacked.

“Congressman Rahul Gandhi could have filed a police report and had his device examined by forensic experts. However, nothing akin to it has been done “He stated.

Sarma claimed that the Congress has a bad track record when it comes to phone tapping and snooping, and that a response under the RTI Act in 2013 revealed that 5000 phone numbers and 500 emails were monitored during the Congress-led UPA government.

He also claimed that the Congress government in Rajasthan had faced criticism for phone tapping charges and invading privacy.

The Central Government categorically denied allegations of snooping using Pegasus software in Lok Sabha on Monday, claiming that illegal surveillance was impossible with checks and balances in the country’s laws, and alleging that attempts were being made to malign Indian democracy. PTI

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