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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Monsanto officials, NSCN-IM members among potential Pegasus targets: Report

The numbers also include those of four members of NSCN-IM in Nagaland, one convenor of Naga National Political Groups, and a Delhi-based writer from Manipur.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 22, 2021 2:03:43 am
Project PegasusThe Indian list of 300 “verified” numbers includes those used by “ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, rights activists and others”, the investigation by the collaborative project has revealed.

Six officials from Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India and Monsanto India, and a member of the committee to implement clause 6 of the Assam Accord were potential targets of Pegasus, according to The Wire, a digital news portal which is part of the global investigative project looking into database of numbers that may have been targeted by the spyware. The numbers also include those of four members of NSCN-IM in Nagaland, one convenor of Naga National Political Groups, and a Delhi-based writer from Manipur.

The numbers from Nagaland include those of Atem Vashum, NCSN-IM leader, and possible successor to T Muivah, chairman of the group, Apam Muivah, also of the IM, and the chairman’s nephew, Anthony Shimray, commander in chief of the Naga army of NSCN IM, and Phungthing Simrang, former commander in chief. The portal also reported the numbers of Kitovi Zhimomi, convenor of NNPGs, and Malem Ningthouja, the writer from Manipur.

The NSCN (IM) as well as NNPGs have been attempting to thrash out an agreement with parleys from both sides on a final settlement of the Naga accord, years after an agreement framework for peace between the government and NSCN IM was signed in August 2015. “The numbers present on the leaked list were added from mid-2017 onwards…,” the portal said.

According to the report, in February 2018, the then BJP government of Maharashtra had set up an SIT to probe companies “allegedly selling or releasing unapproved herbicide-tolerant (HT) transgenic cotton, or Bt cotton, seeds in the state”.

“The resolution forming the SIT specifically mentioned seed giants like Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt. Ltd, Monsanto Holdings Pvt. Ltd. and Monsanto India Ltd., and the terms involved inquiry of the roles of these companies in the unauthorised production, storage and sale of HtBt cotton seeds with HT transgenic gene… A few months prior to the formation of the SIT, in October 2017, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had also set up the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC), under the Department of Biotechnology, to probe the proliferation of unlawful seeds,” it said.

It said that in 2018, phone numbers of six senior officials from “Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt. Lt and Monsanto India were selected as possible candidates for surveillance, investigations under the Pegasus Project have revealed”.

“A senior government official and scientist at the Department of Biotechnology who was involved with FISEC was also of interest to an unidentified Indian client of the NSO group, The Wire can confirm,” it reported.

It also said that another phone number was of Samujjal Bhattacharjee, advisor to AASU. In July 2019, it said, the MHA announced the reconstitution of a high-level committee to implement clause 6 of the Assam Accord, designed to provide constitutional safeguards to the “Assamese People”. The reformed committee headed by retired Gauhati HC Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma saw an increase in members from 9 to 12. Bhattacharjee was one of the members.

“His number was added on the list less than a month before the MHA’s announcement of the new Clause Six committee,” the report said.

The Pegasus Project media partners have said that “only the technical examination of a phone’s data can establish whether an attempt to hack, or a successful compromise, took place; but the presence of a number on the list is a clear indication that the person had been identified as a possible candidate for surveillance.”

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