Bihar CM Nitish Kumar breaks ranks to demand probe
With the Supreme Court set to hear the pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus snooping row on Thursday, a new dimension has been added to the controversy. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an ally of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, has lent his weight to the demand for a probe. The Bihar CM asked the Opposition to put pressure by placing the relevant facts and figures before the government if it was not prepared for an inquiry. Nitish’s demand came on the eve of a meeting of leaders from several Opposition parties convened by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to present a united front on the Pegasus issue even as the controversy continued to rock both Houses of Parliament, prompting PM Modi to slam the Opposition for its conduct.
Ever since the revelation about the phone-tapping incident was made, there have been demands for an inquiry. The demand was earlier raised by TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who called for an all-party meeting on the issue. West Bengal even constituted a commission to probe the controversy. The Centre, on its part, has continued to deny that it has got anything to do with the snooping row, calling it instead an attack on Indian democracy. With the country figuring on the list of global democracy watchdogs that are concerned over the growing trend towards ‘authoritarianism’ and the plight of minorities, the government may well be on the defensive, but the attempts at stone-walling the Opposition have not helped matters either. In fact, the meetings of the parliamentary panel on information technology have seen BJP members boycott the proceedings and spar with the chairman who is from the Congress.
Allegations of surveillance remain a matter of concern as it is as much about security as about privacy. With France and Israel initiating an inquiry into the Pegasus row, India should also look into ways to prevent such incidents. Democracy is about reconciling governmental concerns with individual rights. Misuse of technology can prove to be detrimental in furthering its cause.