Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, two union ministers – Ashwini Vaishnaw, Prahlad Singh Patel, and former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa were placed in the second list of potential targets of an alleged surveillance operation using spyware Pegasus, reported The Wire on Tuesday.
The list also includes the name of a founder of key election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Jagdeep Chhokhar, who was entered on to the list at around the same time as Lavasa. More than 11 phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer and her close relatives who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019 were also selected as targets for surveillance.
Even the name of virologist Gagandeep Kang, who has been a key part of India’s battle against COVID-19 was mentioned in the list of the possible targets for surveillance. Also, Hari Menon, the India head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and at least one other foundation employee, who was selected in mid-2019, are also part of the list.
The publication of the names has sparked a major controversy that can derail the monsoon session of Parliament that began earlier in the day. During a press conference, Congress demanded the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah and a probe into the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the alleged espionage.
The Pegasus Project, the international collaborative investigation of which The Wire is also a part, had earlier made revelations that Pegasus spyware has been used to target the mobile phones of over 40 journalists and activists in India.
For the unversed, the Pegasus which is sold by the Israeli company NSO group is being used by the vetted government around the world. The Pegasus project investigation into the leaked database of numbers believed to be selected by clients of NSO group as possible targets for surveillance has suspectedly tapped the phone of big personalities of India.