July 23, 2021 8:00:15 pm
As many as 25 people from the Kashmir Valley were potential targets of surveillance through the Pegasus spyware between 2017 and mid-2019, a report published by The Wire said on Friday.
Those named in the report include Bilal Lone, SAR Geelani, two members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and family members of the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti amongst others.
Several other politicians, human rights activists, journalists, and business persons from Kashmir also figure in the list, The Wire, a digital news portal that is part of the global investigative project looking into the database of numbers that may have been targeted by the spyware, said.
“Of these, The Wire was able to conduct forensic analysis on the phones of two—separatist leader Bilal Lone and the late S.A.R. Geelani, who worked as a lecturer in Delhi University and died in 2018,” the portal said in its report.
“Lone’s phone data was examined by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Even though this phone set was not the same as the one he used at the time his phone was potentially targeted as per the leaked database, forensic analysis revealed signs of Pegasus targeting. The signs appear in 2019, and are likely the outcome of a process initiated by an India-based client of the NSO Group,” it added.
“I used to hear rumours about phone tapping. It never occurred to me that I also may be a target. But I am too small a person to do anything about it,” Bilal Lone told The Wire.
As per the report, Mufti declined to comment but said that the concept of surveillance is not new for people in Kashmir. “People are used to having their thoughts, ideas not only intercepted but even being punished for them,” the report quoted Mufti as saying.
According to the report, names of J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari’s brother Tariq Bukhari, family members of Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s family and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also feature in the list.
As reported earlier, the number of Indian Express journalist Muzamil Jaleel, who reports on Jammu and Kashmir and internal security, also features in the list.
“The Pegasus Project data also shows that at least five Kashmiri journalists – including Muzamil Jaleel of the Indian Express, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi with Hindustan Times at the time, Iftikhar Geelani formerly with DNA and Sumir Kaul of PTI – were also targeted in the cyber-surveillance programme,” the report said, adding that the name of the fifth journalist was withheld at their request.
Earlier today, a Delhi Police officer visited the office of the news website but said that the visit was part of a “routine checking related to August 15”.
At least 300 persons in India and as many as 50,000 worldwide have been identified by the global collaborative investigative project as targets of the surveillance.
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