Mamata says Pegasus issue worse than Watergate Scandal
Kolkata: In an intensified attack at the BJP-led Centre over the hacking of phones using Pegasus spyware, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee maintained that the country's situation is "worse than Super-Emergency" terming the incident to be "more serious than that of the Watergate Scandal", which broke in the US during the Nixon presidency.
She also accused the Modi government of putting her meeting with poll strategist Prashant Kishor under surveillance. She demanded a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in connection with the Pegasus issue.
The Chief Minister claimed that all impartial institutions have been politicised by the BJP-led government.
"Both Prime Minister and Home Minister must come up with a statement before the people of the country. Instead, attempts are being made to bulldoze the voice of the people," Banerjee said condemning the incident of Income Tax raids at offices of 'Dainik Bhaskar' for reporting on dumping of dead bodies of Covid victims in rivers.
"The use of Pegasus spyware for snooping phone calls of important people is more serious than the Watergate scandal that led to a Super-Emergency situation in the country. No one is allowed to speak freely. All agencies are being politicised. They do not even believe their own officers and even some RSS leaders' phones were also tapped," Banerjee said.
Directly accusing the Centre of procuring the spyware to "capture the democratic rights of Indian citizens" starting from Opposition leaders, judges and journalists, Banerjee said:
"A meeting between me, Abhishek Banerjee (TMC national general secretary), Subrata Bakshi (state president) and Prashant Kishor was held at my Kalighat party office. Our phones were kept aside. Neither there were any media nor any video of the meeting was shot. We did not even speak over the phone at the time of the meeting. But still, the details of the meeting got hacked. Prashant Kishor's phone was audited to find that all our discussions in the meeting were hacked."
The Chief Minister maintained that neither WhatsApp nor Facetime is safe anymore in terms of maintaining one's privacy of telephonic conversations. She even warned her Cabinet ministers not to have important discussions over the phone.
She further said that no one apart from a government agency can purchase such a software. "It is from Israel and they had purchased it from NSO. The Government of India had purchased it to capture the democratic rights of the common people. I am worried about the safety and security of the people of my country. One must not forget that we will lose everything if our democratic and fundamental rights are taken away," she said, urging all (Opposition parties and common people) to come together as the country's process cannot get restricted because of "jumlabaji".
Meanwhile, Trinamool Rajya Sabha MPs, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Derek O'Brien said protest in both the Houses of Parliament would continue till Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah made a structured statement on the floor of the House on the Pegasus issue.
"We will not accept any written statement by the duo, which will be read in Parliament, but a thorough discussion on the matter," O'Brien said.
Roy said the Centre should come out clearly as to who had made payments to the NSO group. He said before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the phone of Abhishek Banerjee, MP and Trinamool Congress all India general secretary had been tapped and the BJP got every information on poll strategy. This had helped the party to get 18 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
The Chief Minister, who already held meetings with representatives of the farmers' movement against the farm laws at Nabanna, has received an invitation from Chandigarh Lok Panchayat. Since it would not be possible for her to cover Chandigarh within two to three days after Delhi, she would be going to Chandigarh later..