Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) has expressed concern over reports of spying on Indian citizens.

In a statement to the media on July 22, JIH Vice President Prof Salim Engineer said: “We are shocked to read the reports about a large number of Indian citizens coming under surveillance using spyware sold by an Israeli company. This is very damaging to our fundamental rights like the right to privacy, safety and security, and human dignity as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

“If the spyware was deployed by some state agency then it is not the characteristic of a welfare but a police state. It would have been a great service to the nation had the money been spent on poverty alleviation rather than spying on citizens. A cursory glance at the list of people allegedly targeted by the spyware gives credence to the suspicion that the surveillance was carried out with not the most honourable of intentions.”

Expressing utmost concern over the episode that poses a great danger to the health of democracy, the JIH Vice President has demanded an inquiry into these reports by a JPC or by the Supreme Court and expects the Government of India to come clean on the entire issue.

He asked, “An important question that begs an answer – did any Indian agency purchase the spyware from Israel and use it for snooping on citizens of India?”

Press bodies, including the Press Council of India (PCI) and DIGIPUB, have condemned attempts to subject journalists to snooping using Pegasus, the surveillance malware designed by Israeli firm NSO, which it only sells to governments, not private players.

A statement issued by the PCI on July 19 said it was the “first time in the history of this country that all pillars of our democracy – Judiciary, Parliamentarians, Media, Executives & Ministers – have been spied upon. This is unprecedented and the PCI condemns unequivocally,” the press body stated, adding that the “snooping” had been done for “ulterior motives”.

The PCI statement mentioned that it was “disturbing that a foreign agency, which has nothing to do with national interest of the country, was engaged to spy on its citizens…. The Govt should come out clean on this front and clarify.”

In a statement, the DIGIPUB News India Foundation – a coming together of digital-only news publications – also condemned the “serious breach of law and of the privacy of mediapersons.”

The body said that it “would indeed be a hollow democracy where journalists aren’t able to do their work without fear of being constantly monitored by Big Brother or rogue actors. The impact of such illegitimate actions have a far reaching impact on not just the news media industry but the development and progress of any nation, especially one that celebrates democratic values.”

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