Former BSF chief, Arvind Kejriwal's aide feature on Pegasus list
The former chief of the Border Security Force (BSF), a senior Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer, a retired Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) officer, and two former Army officials were among potential targets for surveillance through the Pegasus spyware, The Wire reported on Monday. Other targets included Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's former aide and an official from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Ex-BSF chief's number allegedly included in 2018
Former BSF Director General KK Sharma's phone number was placed on the list of targets one month after his controversial attendance at an event in Kolkata in 2018. The event was organized by an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The Trinamool Congress in West Bengal had then demanded a probe into matter.
ED Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh also on the list
The numbers of ED Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh and his family members were also chosen for possible tapping between 2017 and 2019, according to The Wire. Singh has investigated cases such as the 2G spectrum allocation scam. He grabbed headlines in 2018 when the government removed top officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation as he was considered a key part of that controversy.
Arvind Kejriwal's former aide VK Jain targeted
The list also includes the phone number of VK Jain, a former IAS officer who was once one of the chief consultants of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The number was reportedly added in 2018. Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party's spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj is today expected to address a press conference on the alleged inclusion of Jain's number in the database.
Army officer who criticized government also tracked
Colonel Mukul Dev (retired), a former Army officer who has criticized the central government on various issues related to the Armed forces, was also a target for surveillance in 2019. "I have been victimized by this government in every possible manner for fighting for the welfare of the Armed forces. This is the state of the present government," Dev said, according to Hindustan Times.
BSF commandant Jagdish Mathani, others included too
Others who may have been targeted using the spyware include BSF commandant Jagdish Mathani, retired R&AW officer Jitendra Kumar Ojha, Colonel Amit Kumar (retired), and a senior official of the NITI Aayog, according to The Wire.
What is the Pegasus controversy all about?
A list of 50,000 mobile numbers was released earlier this month by a consortium of media organizations around the world. It contained numbers of over 300 Indian government officials, Opposition leaders, activists, and journalists, who were allegedly tracked. NSO Group, the Israeli company which has developed the spyware, says it only supplies the product to government clients for control of crime and terrorism.
Indian government, NSO Group deny allegations of snooping
Meanwhile, the Indian government has denied any involvement in the scandal, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah calling it a report "by disrupters for the obstructers." The NSO Group has also rubbished the allegations, saying the released list is not related to the Pegasus spyware. Opposition parties across India have been calling for an investigation into the scandal.