Other States

Spyware targeted prominent human rights activists in Maharashtra

Nihalsing Rathod   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Two activists associated with the Bhima-Koregaon case were among those whom Citizen Lab, University of Toronto’s cyber security group, reached out to informing them that their phone security was compromised by a spyware.

Human rights activist and academic Anand Teltumbde, who had been named in the FIR, and Nagpur-based civil liberties lawyer Nihalsing Rathod were were contacted by Citizen Lab early this month. Later, WhatsApp informed them that their video calling feature was exploited to install the malware.

“I had mailed them in April informing them about getting video calls from unknown numbers. Typically one number would start the call and another number would join,” said Mr. Rathod, who is representing lawyer Surendra Gadling in the Bhima-Koregaon case.

In a telephonic conversation with The Hindu, Mr. Rathod alleged that the incriminatory letters cited as evidence in the Bhima-Koregaon case may have been planted by government agencies using the spyware. “Even Mr. Gadling received such phone calls,” he said.

Besides Mr. Gadling, nine prominent activists, lawyers and academics have been arrested and imprisoned for over a year in the Bhima-Koregaon case. They include Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferriera, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha.

Watch | Explained: Pegasus, the spyware that came in via WhatsApp

Mr. Teltumbde told The Hindu that he noticed that his phone had been acting up but thought it was a hardware issue. He said, “Nothing can be done now. They [government] can do anything. The state has no morality left.” Mr. Teltumbde said surveillance methods and techniques have reached a level of sophistication that it can only be prevented by a moral state.

“Today it was this, tomorrow they can do something else. They can do anything to anyone. It is a statement of absolute power,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 14, 2021 12:52:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/spyware-targeted-prominent-human-rights-activists-in-state/article29846805.ece

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