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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Here are 4 snooping scandals you don’t know about

Much has been said and written about snooping using Israeli spyware Pegasus with the Bharatiya government denying allegations of surveillance. As the Pegasus controversy rages on, let’s take a look at some instances of snooping in Bharat’s history.

British snooping on Bharat

British who left Bharat in 1947 had enlisted the services of a former Bharatiya policeman under the cover of an ‘economic adviser’ to conduct a spy operation in the country without informing the first Bharatiya government. In a meeting of three British spy agencies officials of MI5, the internal spy agency, the Indian Political Intelligence (IPI), an arm of the India Office, and MI6 which collects foreign intelligence, the decision to undertake such a covert spy operation was taken.

However, the misadventure came to an end in March 1948 when the cover of the policeman was blown and Britain recalled the officer. Finally, Britain PM Clement Atlee ordered MI6 to withdraw completely from Bharat after 1948.

Nehru government spied on the Bose family

Files declassified by the Union Home Ministry in 2015 indicated that for two decades from 1946 to 1968 members of the Bose family were placed under intense surveillance by the then government led by Nehru. Reports state that for about 25 years letters of Bose family were not just intercepted by sleuths of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) but also copied and recorded by them.

IB sleuths even followed the family members around the country to record in detail who they met and what they discussed. Every minute detail of the Bose family was being recorded by IB officials. To provide a proper perspective, the family of a freedom fighter was treated exactly like that of a wanted terrorist would be treated today.

When the revelation became public Subhas Bose’s only child Anita Bose-Pfaff, a Germany-based economist, reacted to the same and said that she is startled by the revelations. India Today quotes her as saying “My uncle (Sarat Chandra) was politically active until the 1950s and disagreed with the Congress leadership. But what surprises me is that my cousins could have been under surveillance, they had no security implications at all”.

Rajiv Gandhi snooped on his own cabinet colleagues

The Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi as well as those of Congress allies had ordered the IB to tap the phones of and snoop on not just their political rivals but of Central cabinet ministers, Congress MPs, MLAs, and religious leaders among others who didn’t pose any political threat too.

Congress minister Arif Mohammed Khan and the then Steel and Mines Minister KC Pant were among those who were being snooped upon by the Rajiv Gandhi government. Even Congress chief ministers weren’t spared revealed a top-secret CBI inquiry report following charges of snooping leveled by Janata Dal’s Chandra Shekar.

The secret report is documentary proof of the fact that the Congress(I) government at the Centre was systematically snooping on its own chief ministers and Central cabinet ministers. Between 1981 and 1983, the telephone conversations of more than 50 politicians, trade union leaders, and phones in BJP, CPI(M), the CPI offices in Delhi were eavesdropped into.

Manmohan Singh justifies Congress-led UPA II’s snooping activities

When then Samajwadi party leader Amar Singh leveled allegations in January 2006 of his phone being tapped by the Congress-led UPA government which came to power in 2004, several opposition leaders such as Sitaram Yechury, Jayalalithaa, and CB Naidu among others seconded him and put forward similar allegations.

With UPA’s return to power in 2009, snooping allegations again cropped up and in December 2010 then PM Manmohan Singh defended his government’s snooping of corporate bigwigs citing national security and prevention of money laundering and tax evasion as excuses for the move.

Even former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had suspected snooping threats and believed that one of his cabinet colleagues was involved in bugging Mukherjee’s office. He had even asked then PM Singh to conduct an inquiry into the same.

Recently, a Congress MLA from Rajasthan accused CM Ashok Gehlot and said that he had been informed of the phones of several legislators, including him, being tapped. Chaksu MLA Ved Prakash Solanki added that efforts were being made to entrap the MLAs.

While NSO Group that owns the Pegasus spyware mulls defamatory action against The Wire for making wild allegations against them and the Bharatiya government has rubbished all claims of snooping, the fact remains that Congress has time and again misused central agencies for spying not just on its political rivals but also its own people.

(Featured Image Source: OpIndia)

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