The latest revelations from the Pegasus Project show that members of the Indian Army, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, are among those whose phone numbers are on the alleged Pegasus target list.
Former BSF Director General K.K. Sharma was added to the list in early 2018, about a month after he had controversially attended, in his official uniform, a conference on border issues organized by the Seemanta Chetana Mancha, an Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, in Kolkata.
A BSF inspector general of police, Jagdish Maithani, was identified as a potential target for surveillance almost at the same time as Sharma. Maithani has been involved with the MHA’s comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS) project, also known as smart fencing, where physical border fencing is not possible, such as in the riverine borders shared with Bangladesh.
The numbers of retired RAW official Jitendra Kumar Ojha and his wife were also present in the list. Ojha had won the Uttam Seva Samman Patra in 2010 – awarded to officers with at least six outstanding appraisals over a decade, and been involved in several important national security cases. However, he was terminated from the service in January 2018, reportedly for reasons unrelated to his seemingly excellent service record.
Ojha challenged his premature ‘retirement’ before the Central Administrative Tribunal in February 2018. The numbers belonging to him and his wife were added to the alleged target list in March 2018.
The numbers of Indian army officials Colonel Mukul Dev and Colonel Amit Kumar were also added to the list in 2019. Colonel Dev is known for having sent a legal notice to the government in 2017 against its order to scrap free rations for army officers posted in peace areas. Colonel Kumar had filed a petition before the Supreme Court in August 2018 on behalf of 356 Army personnel against an apprehended impending dilution in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives immunity from prosecution to military personnel serving in insurgency-hit regions. Colonel Kumar was posted in Jammu and Kashmir at that time.
Also read: Officials of CBI, MNC, Assam leaders, and journalists targeted by Pegasus
High-ranking government officials on target list too
An investigation of leaked information by The Wire and its media partners on the Pegasus Project found that Rajeshwar Singh, a senior Enforcement Directorate officer who led several high-profile investigations conducted by his agency, was chosen as a possible target for surveillance through Pegasus.
The list included two of Singh’s phone numbers, but also four numbers belonging to three women in his family.
V.K. Jain, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who worked as a personal assistant to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, also seems to be a possible target. Jain’s contact information was added in the alleged target list in 2018, when he was said to have handled the Delhi government’s most sensitive files. Jain, as Kejriwal’s primary associate during his first full term, had been actively involved in the city’s implementation of the chief minister’s most prized welfare schemes, such as improving school education and health infrastructure.
Furthermore, the leaked list included the contact information of a senior employee of the NITI Aayog, as well as an officer who is currently an undersecretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. The latter’s number was allegedly added to the list in 2017, when he was in charge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tours.
The Bihar Cricket Association too under the spyware’s radar
According to The Wire, the contact information of the current chief of the Bihar Cricket Association, Rakesh Tiwary, who is considered closely connected to those in charge of cricket administration in India, was discovered in the leaked database.
Tiwary is close to the Bharatiya Janta Party, according to a source with extensive understanding of cricket administration in India, and frequently speaks of his affiliations with key leaders of the Board of Cricket for Cricket in India (BCCI), as well as his proximity with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his son, the current BCCI secretary Jay Shah. Tiwary also called himself a “devoted worked of the Sangh” (likely the RSS) when reached by The Wire for comment.
Tiwary was associated with cricket administration in his hometown of Gopalganj in 2018 when both of his mobile numbers appeared in the list.
Also read: Pegasus Project international updates: French President calls Israeli PM to seek action, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. allegedly snoop on their allies
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s John Brittas, a Rajya Sabha MP, filed a public interest litigation before the Supreme Court, demanding a court-monitored investigation into the allegations of surveillance that have come out from the Pegasus Project’s reporting, since the union government has refused to probe the allegations and dismissed them in the current Parliament session
The Wire has till now revealed 142 names of Indian individuals on the alleged target list so far. International human rights organization Amnesty International, in collaboration with The Wire, forensically examined the phones of ten of these Indians on the list, all of which showed evidence of either an attempted hack or a successful compromise.