On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi spoke at Cambridge University, delivering a scathing attack on the Indian government's handling of democracy in the country. He alleged that an attack has been unleashed on the basic structure of Indian democracy and claimed that Israeli spyware Pegasus was being used to snoop into his phone.
During his address to MBA students at Cambridge Judge Business School on the topic of 'Learning to Listen in the 21st Century', Mr Gandhi shared his personal experience with Pegasus, claiming that he had been warned by intelligence officers to be "careful" while speaking on the phone as his calls were being recorded. He also alleged that a large number of politicians had Pegasus on their phones.
This is not the first time that Pegasus has been in the news. In August last year, the Supreme Court-appointed committee, set up to look into the allegations of the government allegedly using Pegasus for snooping, had concluded that the spyware was not found in the 29 mobile phones examined by it, but the malware was found in five mobile phones.
Reading the report of the committee, the bench had said, "We are concerned about the technical committee report... 29 phones were given and in five phones some malware was found but the technical committee says it cannot be said to be Pegasus."
Mr Gandhi also alleged that constraints were being put on the Parliament, press, and judiciary in the country. "Everybody knows and it's been in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. I am an Opposition leader in India, we are navigating that (Opposition) space. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy -- Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilization, moving around -- all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy," the Congress MP alleged.
He went on to share a picture of himself in the presentation slide in which he is seen being held by the police personnel, claiming that the Opposition leaders were "locked up" in jail for "just standing" in front of the Parliament House to talk about some issues, while also alleging that such incidents have happened "relatively violently".
"In the Constitution, India is described as a Union of States, and that Union requires negotiation and conversation. It is that negotiation that is under attack and threat. You can see the picture which is taken in front of Parliament House. The Opposition leaders were just standing there talking about certain issues, and we were put in jail. That's happened 3 or 4 times. It has happened relatively violently. You have also heard of the attacks on minorities and the press. You get a sense of what is going on," Mr Gandhi claimed.
His comments come at a time when the Indian government is facing criticism for its handling of the farmer's protest and the clampdown on dissenting voices in the country. The government has also been accused of using sedition laws to silence critics, with many activists, journalists, and opposition leaders being arrested on charges of sedition.
The Indian government has denied all allegations of using Pegasus and other spyware to snoop on citizens, saying that the allegations are baseless and unfounded. However, the issue has raised concerns about the use of technology for surveillance and the impact on individual privacy.
Mr Gandhi's address at Cambridge University highlights the growing concerns about the state of democracy in India and the need for greater transparency and accountability in the country. As India continues to face challenges to its democratic institutions, it is important for the government to listen to the concerns of citizens and work towards addressing them.