A lawyer connected to the Elgar Parishad case has alleged that his phone was secretly and illegally spied upon by Indian government agencies.
The allegation comes after Facebook-owned WhatsApp accused Israel-based NSO Group of using the spyware called 'Pegasus' to target over 1,400 WhatsApp users, a few of them in India. As per the instant messaging app, the spyware targeted victims by giving missed calls on their mobile phones.
Advocate Nihal Singh Rathod told India Today that his phone had been targeted. When asked as to how did he learn about it, Rathod said he received a phone call from John Scott-Railton who introduced himself as a senior researcher at the Citizen's Lab, University of Toronto. Scott-Railton informed Rathod that his handset had been targeted with the spying software.
Rathod could then connect the dots about unsolicited WhatsApp video calls he had been receiving since 2017. From 2018 he had started maintaining records of the said video calls, the frequency of which increased in 2019.
When the news channel asked if he planned to take legal action, Rathod said, "First of all I am trying to bring all of the people, lawyers, activists who are connected with Yelgar Parishad case on one platform, I have appealed to them via social media like Facebook to come out and join hands if anyone has experienced such type of alleged spying ".
The news channel also contacted Rupali Jadhav, a human rights activist who is also a member of Kabir Kala Manch. Jadhav said that she got a call from Scott-Railton on October 28, who informed her that her handset had also been targeted.
But unlike Rathod, Jadhav could not recall getting WhatsApp video calls from any unidentified numbers. She claimed Pune police had impounded her mobile phone in April 2018 during its search operation in the Elgar Parishad case.
The Elgar Parishad case pertains to caste violence that erupted in 2017 owing to "provocative" speeches made at the Elgar Parishad (conclave) conducted during an annual celebratory gathering at Bhima Koregaon in Pune commemorating the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon victory. Ten activists including Surendra Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale were apprehended by the police in 2018 as a part of an investigation into the cast violence. The activists were charged with masterminding the violence.