Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday, ex-Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched a no-holds-barred attack on the Centre over the Pegasus issue. Claiming that the opposition's voice is being suppressed in Parliament, he asked, "Did the government of India purchase Pegasus? Yes or no? Did the government of India use the Pegasus on our own people? We want to know this". So far, the Monsoon session has seen repeated adjournments owing to continuous ruckus from the opposition regarding the Pegasus 'snooping' row and the three farm laws.
Flanked by leaders such as Manoj Jha, Kanimozhi and Sanjay Raut, Gandhi told the media, "The government has clearly told us that there will be no discussion regarding Pegasus in the House. I want to tell the people of India- Narendra Modi has installed a weapon in your phone. This weapon was used against me, the Supreme Court, other leaders, journalists and activists. So, why shouldn't there be a discussion in Parliament?" Earlier in the day, leaders of 14 opposition parties met to strategise on cornering the treasury benches on this issue.
Making it clear that the discussion should only be focused around Pegasus, the Wayanad MP remarked, "If they (treasury benches) say that we are discussing something else, then Pegasus will be over. Then, no discussion on Pegasus will be possible after that. For us, the Pegasus issue is a matter of nationalism and treason. Because this has been used against democracy. For me, it is not a privacy issue. For me, this is anti-national work. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have dealt a blow to the country's democratic soul".
It is being said about us that we're disturbing Parliament proceedings. We are not disturbing the House. We just want to fulfil our duties. This weapon (Pegasus) has been used against India. It should be used against terrorists & anti-nationals: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi pic.twitter.com/6Dr4NcNv37— ANI (@ANI) July 28, 2021
The controversy came to the fore when French non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International accessed a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers that were allegedly targeted by Pegasus. As per media reports, the Pegasus spyware targeted over 300 Indian mobile numbers including that of 40 journalists, businesspersons, one constitutional authority, three opposition leaders and two sitting Ministers in the Union government. The database also allegedly contained the numbers of activists who are accused and incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon case. However, the NSO Group categorically rubbished these allegations and cast doubts on the reliability of the sources.
Making a statement on this issue in Rajya Sabha on July 22, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated, "A highly sensational story was published by a web portal on the 18th July 2021. Many over-the-top allegations have been made around this story. Honourable Chairman Sir, the press reports have appeared a day before the Monsoon session of Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence, honourable Chairman Sir. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties including in the Supreme Court."