Several top Kashmiri separatist leaders, mainstream politicians from the Valley, at least two family members of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and those of late Delhi University lecturer S A R Geelani, apart from journalists and civil society activists from the Valley were on the list of potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, according to a report in The Wire.
The news website reported that top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Hurriyat Conference executive member Bilal Lone, family members of separatist patriarch Syed Ali Geelani were among more than 25 people from the Valley selected as potential targets.
The report said phones of Lone and S A R Geelani were forensically analysed by Amnesty International’s security lab and were found infected with the spyware.
The report said cellphones of the Kashmiri leaders were targeted between 2017 and 2019. It said at least two family members of Mehbooba Mufti were on the list of potential targets — part of it during her tenure as chief minister of the erstwhile state of J&K, while she headed a coalition government with BJP. It says the targets were chosen months before the BJP-PDP alliance broke down in 2018.
The report said that phones of at least four members of Hurriyat chairman Geelani’s family were on the list, including his son Syed Naseem Geelani and son-in-law Iftikhar Geelani, a journalist now based in Turkey.
Mirwaiz Farooq and his driver were on the list, as was the brother of Altaf Bukhari, who formed the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party and is seen as close to BJP, it reported.
Condemning the “targeted surveillance”, the Hurriyat Conference said in a statement: “All Parties Hurriyat Conference condemns the targeted surveillance on its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and senior executive members Bilal Ghani lone and Masroor Abbas Ansari as reported in The Wire’s expose.”
While calling for a trial of those involved in the alleged surveillance, the Hurriyat also stated that they understand any action against them is unlikely. “The hacking into people’s phone for surveillance is a wilful and direct violation of the universally acknowledged fundamental right to privacy, a basic human right, and those involved in it should be tried,” it said.
PDP chief Mufti tweeted, “A spyware used against terrorists has been weaponised to deal with political opponents and dissenters. BJP has taken a leaf out of how Britishers would suspect and treat Indians during the colonial era…”
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