Pegasus leaks has disclosed how an Israeli spy software developed by the NSO Group was used by the powerful elite in India to suppress dissent and indulge into political blackmail. The Modi regime has faced criticism in the past seven years on how RSS ideology is being shoved down the throat of common people across India. The current revelation has just added another black feather to Modi’s cap of Nazism aka Hindutva.

The Indian opposition and liberal media has raised their voice against the Modi regime’s blatant violation of democracy and privacy to draw political mileage; however the international community has not publicly condemned Modi and his cabal for patronising this heinous network.

Foreign Policy magazine published a scathing article on July 21, with the title ‘India’s Watergate Moment’, penned down by Sushant Singh. Sushant Singh is a senior fellow with the Centre for Policy Research in India. He is one of the Indian journalists to have been targeted by the Modi regime through Pegasus. He describes his ordeal in the article published by Foreign Policy and gives plausible reasons as to why he was subjected to violation of his privacy.

Sushant Singh states that he had known since June this year that he was on the list. His friend and colleague Siddharth Varadarajan, co-founder of India’s independent news portal The Wire—one of the 17 global media partners of this worldwide investigation—was sombre when he first informed him. After he agreed to cooperate with the investigation, his device was checked by Amnesty International in early July. They found that his cell-phone had been infiltrated by Pegasus, most probably in July 2018.

Sushant Singh was working on major stories, all affecting the Modi regime. Sushant feels that although the Rafale deal remains a politically sensitive issue for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the list of Indians targeted by Pegasus goes beyond journalists and activists. It allegedly includes top political leaders, constitutional functionaries, bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, scientists, diplomats and businesspeople. Because the Israeli cyberweapon is claimed to be sold only to “vetted governments” for use against terrorists and criminals, the snooping list denotes that the Indian democratic framework is no longer free and fair. This is no less than India’s Watergate moment.

Sushant concludes that if Indian institutions fail to stand up and press Modi’s government for answers, it could well mark the demise of the world’s largest democracy. The onus is also on another democracy, Israel, to come clean and take steps to cancel India’s Pegasus license for violation of contractual obligations.

The issues being raised in Indian and international media range from attacks on liberty, fascism, Hindutva agenda, political blackmailing, eavesdropping on opponents and critics to spending millions of dollars on a military grade spy software for a misuse.

Since the spy software was sold by the Israeli company to governments, the question arises; if the Indian intelligence was ordered by Modi to misuse it against Indian citizens to suppress dissent. Modi has already been criticised for using military and civil institutions for political purposes, something similar echoed when Modi decided to use the Indian Air Force against Pakistan in 2019 to draw political mileage and win the elections.

During a discussion in Mojo Story, Barkha Dutt spoke to Justice Madan Lokur, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, raising a whole slew of questions on India’s democracy after the Pegasus Leaks, especially given that the leaks link to journalists, a former member of the EC and a woman who alleged sexual harassment against the ex- Chief Justice Mr Gogoi. Should the Supreme Court of India respond to the conduct of its ex-Chief Justice, who was later given a seat in the Indian senate or Rajya Sabha?

Modi and Pegasus leaks have been given various titles, especially by Indian social media activists; these include SnoopGate, Snoopydemic, Snoopendra Modi, Modi the Stalker and Modi the Peeper.

Did Modi’s SnoopGate go beyond Indian borders? Few in Pakistan have publicly highlighted that Modi, through his intelligence operators, may have helped Mian Nawaz Sharif target opposition as well as institutions in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s name has already appeared in the leaks, if that be the case, there are chances that either through India or a third party, Pegasus was used and inducted by the Sharif government to target and spy on important personalities in Pakistani institutions.

Pegasus leaks has highlighted that no one is safe from snooping, if the leaders like Modi and Netanyahu are allowed to run democracies, there is no guarantee for privacy. If misuse of technology is allowed by big tech companies and the so-called democracies to drive their political agendas, the right to privacy and democracy are at stake.

Pakistan needs to conduct its own investigations, and, if there is a link between Modi, Nawaz Sharif and Israel to spy on opposition and institutions, the law must take its due course. Meanwhile state institutions and concerned ministries must develop indigenous software to be used by important government functionaries and institutions, so that Pakistan can remain safe from hacking and snooping.