AASU adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya: File photo Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: Responding to claims that one of his phone numbers was a potential surveillance target of NSO’s Pegasus spyware, All Assam Students Union (AASU) chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said it is a murder of democracy and a threat to the people’s rights.

Media outlet The Wire reported on Wednesday that the phone number used by Bhattacharya figured among 300 verified Indian numbers that were listed as potential targets of the Israeli-made NSO Group spyware.

Speaking to EastMojo over the phone, Bhattacharya said, “Israel is a foreign country. If a foreign country is tapping phones and doing surveillance on Indian citizens with the consent of the Indian government, then it is a murder of democracy.”

“This (snooping) is a threat to the people’s right. This is unconstitutional, fascist, dangerous and anti-national,” he added.

Also Read: Attempt to malign Indian democracy, says IT Minister on Project Pegasus

“When I got the news yesterday that my name is in the tapping list, I was completely shocked and surprised,” he said.

He, however, said, if the snooping is happening without the knowledge of the Indian government, then it is a threat to the nation. 

“If it is happening without the knowledge of the Indian government, it is more dangerous. This means they (Israel) have information on the offices of the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the matter of internal security. It is a threat to the integrity of the nation and the internal security,” he said.

He said the alleged snooping is happening either on the consent of the Indian government or without their knowledge. “Either of the two is true but which one. To clear the air, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have to convincingly tell the people,” he said.

“Everything is transparent on whatever we speak on the telephone. We tell this to the people and the media. The people of Assam and the northeast are our guardians. Whatever we do, right or wrong, we move forward only after the people’s guidance,” he said.

His phone number was added to the target list less than a month before the Union Home Ministry announced the reconstitution of the ‘high-level committee’ to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, The Wire reported.

The new Clause Six committee headed by retired Gauhati High Court Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma with 12 members was announced on July 16, 2019. 

“The core issue is the influx of illegal foreigners and the threat to the identity of the indigenous people of Assam and the Northeast. We are leading a non-violent movement against illegal foreigners, but they brought CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). If they tap telephone and keep surveillance for our non-violent movement, I will not fear,” he said. 

“If they think they will derail our non-violent movement with tapping telephones and snooping, it’s a warning for them. We will continue our non-violent and democratic movement for the rights of the people of Assam and Northeast,” he added. “The people of Northeast won’t accept this kind of anti-national activity,” he said. 

“The reconstitution (Clause Six committee) must have been done because the Narendra Modi government had felt the pressure from certain quarters to not ignore AASU in the matter… In the past, all official confabulations on the implementation of the Accord by the MHA – the nodal agency for its implementation – had been conducted keeping AASU representatives at the table,” The Wire reported. 

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