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BJP ally Nitish Kumar joins opposition leaders in demanding probe over Pegasus issue

The revelations on Pegasus have caused an uproar in Parliament with opposition MPs clamouring for a discussion and an independent investigation into the controversy. 

Joining the coterie of opposition leaders, the current Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar has demanded a probe into the Pegasus controversy, a report by NDTV said. According to the report, while addressing a group of reporters, Kumar said, “There have been talks of telephone tapping for so many days… The issue is being raised in parliament and there are news reports in the media… So definitely it should be discussed and looked into… the whole thing should be made public.”

This is the first time that an NDA ally is calling for an investigation into the Pegasus controversy. Kumar’s demand is seen as an important resistance among the NDA coalition leaders since JD(U) has been one of the biggest allies of the NDA. 

Why it matters? 

The Pegasus exposé has caused an uproar in Parliament ever since the issue was uncovered. The investigation into Pegasus surveillance was carried out by a consortium of 17 news organisations, led by Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories along with forensic analysis by Amnesty International. At the center of the investigation is the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, which has serious consequences on issues pertaining to privacy, security, and surveillance. The software purportedly infects electronic devices and spies on the victim by transferring data to a master server. It has been identified as a cyber weapon that is sold exclusively to governments and is authorized for use against terrorists and criminals, according to NSOHowever, the findings of the investigation revealed that it was being used to (potentially) target heads of state, bureaucrats, businessmen, independent journalists, activists, and lawyers across 11 countries including India.   

Why is JD(U) demanding a probe in this matter?

According to Indian Express, one of the reasons behind Nitish Kumar’s demand for a probe could be linked to election strategist Prashant Kishor. Kishor, along with Rahul Gandhi, is among the big names which have been revealed by the Wire as potential targets of Pegasus surveillance. He was also the chief strategist for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 election campaign.

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A source told the news publication, “He (Kishor) was with the JD(U) between September 2018 and January 2020 and was in constant touch with senior leaders. Targeting his phone is a serious issue for us as well.”

More NDA allies join the demand for Pegasus probe 

In addition to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has also demanded a probe into the Pegasus surveillance controversy. 

Manjhi took to Twitter to express his concerns and said:

If the opposition is constantly disrupting the proceedings of the parliament and demanding a probe into a certain matter then it’s a serious situation. Keeping the future in mind, I believe that it’s pertinent to initiate an investigation in Pegasus snooping so that the country gets to know who’s snooping on whom.

Manjhi is the president of Hindustani Awam Morcha which is an ally of the NDA. 

A step ahead: West Bengal Government has constituted judicial panel to probe Pegasus

A few days ago, Medianama had reported that the West Bengal government constituted a judicial panel to probe the Pegasus spyware issue. One of the key reasons behind the setting up of the panel by the Bengal government is the fact that Prashant Kishor’s name is included in the list of potential targets for Pegasus surveillance along with Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, as per the findings of The Wire’s report. Kishor worked with the Trinamool Congress party during the West Bengal assembly elections in 2021. The panel will be headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur and retired Chief Justice of Kolkata High Court Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya. 

According to Banerjee, the committee will look into the following aspects :

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  • Investigate who has been hacking into the phones of citizens of West Bengal
  • Check how this illegal operation is being perpetrated
  • Analyze how speech is being stifled

While addressing a brief press conference, Banerjee pointed out that West Bengal is the first state to have set up a committee to investigate this issue and said that other states should follow suit.

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