All Assam Students Union (AASU) chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya was potentially targeted for surveillance in 2018-2019 using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus software, news website The Wire reported on Wednesday. AASU spearheaded anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Assam.
Mr Bhattacharya said that he was “shocked and surprised” after his name appeared in the list, adding, “There are two fundamental questions. First, a foreign country, Israel’s spyware is being used with the consent of our government to spy on Indians which is an attack on our democracy and thereby kills our democracy. Through this they are killing the rights of the people and it is not acceptable.”
“It’s unconstitutional,” Mr Bhattacharya told NDTV.
“If this spyware is operating without our government’s help, then it is even a bigger threat to our national security. The Prime Minister and Home Minister must speak out,” he said.
The list of names released also included leader of pro-talks faction of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Anup Chetia, largely seen as a fierce critic of the Centre on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act.
Mr Chetia said that he did not understand the reason behind his name appearing in the list.
“I am a participant in the peace process with the government since 2016 and have never been involved in any anti-India activity, I don’t know why they are taping me and snooping me,” Mr Chetia told NDTV.
“An operator from a foreign country is doing it and if government of India has permitted it, they should clarify why Pegasus was chosen for this snooping. In a democratic nation, this is against the rights of the people”, he added.
Some other prominent names in the Pegasus list included key members of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), Atem Vashum, Apam Muivah, Anthony Shimray and Phunthing Shimrang. The group has been in talks with the government and signed a framework agreement in 2015.