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Protests erupt in India’s Parliament over spyware scandal

NEW DELHI — India’s Parliament erupted in protests on Tuesday as opposition lawmakers accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of using military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists, and activists. The session was disrupted repeatedly as opposition lawmakers shouted slogans against Modi’s government and demanded an investigation into how the spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.

“This is a national security threat,” an opposition Congress party official, Kapil Sibal, said at a news conference.

The protests came after an investigation by a global media consortium was published on Sunday. Based on leaked targeting data, the findings provided evidence that the spyware from Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was used to allegedly infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists, and political opponents in 50 countries.

Ashwani Vaishnaw dismissed the allegations on Monday, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top,” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.” Minutes after his statement in Parliament, India’s independent The Wire website — part of the media consortium — revealed that his name also appeared on the list as a potential surveillance target in 2017. He was not a member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party at that time.

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