July 21, 2021 3:42:24 am
SEVERAL INDIAN activists and student leaders were potential targets of NSO’s Pegasus, media houses who are part of the global collaborative project investigating the database of numbers that may have been targeted by the spyware said on Tuesday.
The project’s Indian partner The Wire said former JNU students Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Banjyotsana Lahiri are named in the database.
Others who figure in the database, it said, include Ambedkarite activist Ashok Bharti, academic Bela Bhatia, railway union leader Shiv Gopal Mishra, labour rights activist Anjani Kumar, anti-coal mining activist Alok Shukla, Delhi University professor Saroj Giri, Bastar-based activist Shubhranshu Choudhary and another activist, Ipsa Shatakshi.
The Wire said that “it is not possible to conclusively establish whether their phones were hacked or infected” without digital forensics, but “their appearance on the list suggests that they were persons of interest to an unidentified client of the NSO Group that was focused on India”.
This is the third list that the international media collaboration has released. In the previous lists released on Sunday and Monday, the names of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, political strategist Prashant Kishor, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and around 40 Indian journalists figured.
The Wire said Bharti, chairman of the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha, an umbrella association of Dalit rights’ groups, “had led the nation-wide Bharat Bandh on April, 2, 2018” against a Supreme Court ruling regarding the SC/ST Act, and had called for another another strike in August. “It was in the months leading up to this strike that his phone number was selected as a possible candidate for surveillance,” it said.
In 2019, WhatsApp had noted that activists Saroj Giri, Bela Bhatia, Alok Shukla and Shubhranshu Choudhary “were affected by a Pegasus attack”.
The Wire said that secretary of the joint consultative machinery for the central government employees union and general secretary of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation Gopal Mishra “was also of interest…”
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