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When Pegasus landed in India

By MK Shukla- 23 Jul 2021


New Delhi (23.07.2021): It so happened that India’s Pegasus moment turned out to be a three-day squib.

On the first day, that is on Sunday, a 'presuasion' blitz campaign (presuasion is said to be the art of convincing people to accept what may be dished out) was launched. The next day, on Monday, the aisles and the well of both Houses of Parliament was charged by MPs who never get tired of repeating their undying commitment to democracy and its eco-system. Since this 'grand tactic' also failed to be a hit with the people who rather questioned the 'rowdy' behavior of the opposition as well as the ruling establishment, the third day was chosen to demand the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate into Pegasus.

From the chronology of events, it may appear that the opposition was taken for a ride by a bunch of warriors of the right to privacy (RTP) and the right to freedom of expression, who used a story published in a French media outlet called Forbidden Stories and planted by Amnesty International in two western publications that have been direly trying to eke out an existence through subscriptions from India and donations by super and hyper capitalists.

The moment the 'presuasion' campaign was launched on Twitter on July 18, 2021, it became clear to political observers that a section of politicians including beneficiary media barons and baronesses and their supreme sidekicks masquerading as journalists may repeat the October 2019 episode of the Pegasus, wherein it was alleged that the WhatsApp accounts of several self-proclaimed 'activists journalists' and RTP and freedom of expression champions were hacked.

This time around, though, the campaign against the Indian government suffered from a serious flaw from the beginning as it was sought to be built on a narrative that didn't have the leg to walk, much less the wing to fly. It was built on the MSM's inherent credulity, and their intellectual laziness or incapability or both in researching open-source data.

Look at this fact.

The Indian MSM, most of whom subscribe to Reuters news service, suppressed or ignored or both a piece of major news filed by the news agency's Jerusalem reporters on July 13, 2021.

The report read: "An Israeli court has dismissed Amnesty International’s legal bid to stop NSO Group from exporting surveillance software, saying the rights organization did not prove NSO’s technology had been used to spy on its members.

Amnesty alleged that governments around the world have used the Israeli company’s cellphone-hacking software, Pegasus, to crack down on activists, and petitioned to get NSO’s export license revoked.

A Tel Aviv District Court judge, however, found Amnesty did not present evidence to back up the claim that there had been an attempt to spy by hacking a human rights activist’s phone, nor that such an attempt had been carried out by NSO, according to a court document.

The judge also ruled that Israel’s Defence Ministry has enough safeguards in place to protect human rights in its export licensing process."

Such an observation from a court of justice of an open society should have settled the matter once for all.

However, the Israeli Jewish judge's observation pissed off Amnesty’s Israel branch so much so that it let out a stream of invectives against the court and claimed a “mountain of evidence was ignored” and called the court “a rubber stamp to the Defence Ministry’s impunity to human rights violations”. That it got away unscathed with this kind of rude remark only goes to prove how open the Israeli society and its government is.

But the question arises is whether this is the right language to use against a court of justice, even if one were not to agree with its ruling? Doesn't it reflect a holier-than-thou attitude? What could be the consequences if everyone were to adopt this attitude?

Anyway, reverting to India, if this writer's understanding of the public mood is correct, it may be said that while the public at large remains indifferent (for now) to the issue, those engaged in studying and understanding the political journey of the country find it difficult to believe that the constitutionally-elected administration of PM Narendra Modi had been mounting the Greek Classics' winged horse Pegasus, now an Israeli NASDAQ-listed company called Ability Inc famous spyware, to intrude into the private Zeus-like abode of certain individuals, leaders, and businessmen.

While in Greek legend Pegasus was turned back to earth, in today's real life, Pegasus spyware has come to haunt the so-called top guardians of Indian politics and the enemies of Israel's open society. Had Karl Popper, the famous writer of Democracy's classic The Open Society and Its Enemies, been alive today, he would have surely given two cheers to how open societies are resorting to more openness to deal with their enemies.

Meantime, Tal Dalian, Anatoly Hurgin, and other true warriors of democracy are having great fun at the cost of Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and their special allies who find faults at every turn with three vibrant democracies of Asia -  Israel, India, and Japan.

Unfortunately for Amnesty, its latest amateur expose has made it look more like a new but failed 'missionary' organization for invasion of Asia's democracies.

In a comment on its website, the NSO Group has commented that it "has a good reason to believe the claims that are made by the unnamed sources to Forbidden Stories, are based on a misleading interpretation of data from accessible and overt basic information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no bearing on the list of the customers' targets of Pegasus or any other NSO products. Such services are openly available to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, and are commonly used by governmental agencies for numerous purposes, as well as by private companies worldwide.

The claims that the data was leaked from our servers, is a complete lie and ridiculous since such data never existed on any of our servers".

For now, the matter ends there, even though it remains open to question who benefited from this imaginative or real tale about Pegasus-mounted surveillance. Or are there business houses in India that have acquired the spyware to spook their rivals?

(By MK Shukla)

(The above article does not reflect the views of New Media Network or its Editor in any way. The views expressed belong to the contributing writer).

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