Amidst the continuous aggressiveness of assembly elections in five states, the case of surveillance on the iPhones of some prominent opposition leaders of the country is creating a new political controversy. Efforts to corner the government by calling it government sponsored have also suddenly become fierce. Apple company has sent an email message to these phone holders saying that your phone is being kept under surveillance by the government due to some ‘malware virus’ through which all your activities can be monitored. But along with this, the government has refused to take any such action and has announced to get the entire matter investigated by the Parliamentary Committee of the Ministry of Information Technology and has said that a similar e-mail message has also been received by Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. The allegation of surveillance on phones is also a matter of serious concern for the government because it is a case in which situations like ouster from power are created. Until the matter is fully investigated, it would be premature to blame anyone. The opposition parties should cooperate in making the electoral environment healthy instead of making it blurry or controversial, this is the foundation of a healthy and ideal democracy. Violation of someone’s freedom destroys the sanctity of democracy itself.
Certainly, in any democratic system, if any case of violation of privacy of opposition leaders by the government comes to light, then naturally the government should be cornered and answers should be sought. But it is not appropriate to raise such controversies without any foundation. The good thing in this matter is that the government has taken these allegations seriously and has taken a prompt decision, not only ordering a detailed investigation into the entire matter, but the iPhone company has also been asked to join the investigation. . It is important for all parties to cooperate in ensuring a thorough and credible investigation of the matter rather than rushing to conclusions. This is not only a matter related to the privacy of the leaders of opposition parties but it is also a matter of protection and commitment to democratic values.
However, it is also important to make it clear that in the present case it is only a matter of doubt. These messages sent by Apple on iPhone were auto-generated, about whose authenticity the company is also not sure. He says that some of these messages could also be false alarms. Despite this, whether the apprehensions of the opposition leaders are baseless or fundamental will be known only from the findings of the investigation. The allegation that the messages are coming on the phones of leaders of opposition parties and some journalists considered anti-government is baseless because a Union Minister has also received a similar message. Things have changed a lot after the information technology revolution, hence the nature of allegations has also changed. Even two years ago, the countrymen have seen the entire ritual of ‘Pegasus’ virus, which was investigated by a special committee constituted by the Supreme Court. There was a huge uproar in Parliament two years ago regarding this matter. But the allegations therein could not be proved. In such a situation, when this new allegation of hacking of phones of opposition leaders has been made, then it needs to be taken completely seriously. One should wait for the truth to be revealed while avoiding allegations and counter-allegations regarding this matter. It has also been said by the government that it can also call senior officials of the Apple company for questioning in the investigation of the entire episode. In this case the basic question arises of personal freedom which the Supreme Court has accepted as the fundamental right of the citizens. In a democratic system everyone has freedom to write, speak, think and do.
The IT Ministry has said that CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), the central online security agency and the national agency responsible for responding to cyber security threats like hacking and phishing, will investigate the opposition’s claim of iPhone ‘hacking’ attempts. . Several opposition leaders, including Mahua Moitra, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Raghav Chadha, Shashi Tharoor, Pawan Kheda and Sitaram Yechury, on Tuesday claimed that they had received Apple alerts warning of state-sponsored hacking of their iPhones. iPhone maker Apple on Tuesday said it did not link warning messages sent to some opposition MPs to any specific government-sponsored burglaries and could not provide information on what prompted such warnings. The reasons will be known only after a detailed investigation, till then the parties and the opposition should remain calm and show prudence. Because this is a matter related to India, Indian democracy and the systematic functioning of the democratic system. The latest case is also very serious because change of powers has been seen in such cases. Therefore, it is important to take seriousness in such cases and allegations.
Very few examples of such breach of privacy by politicians and political parties have been seen in India, but whenever any government faces such allegations, it has to pay a heavy price. The biggest example is from the 80s when the Veerappa Moily government of Karnataka was embroiled in the ‘tape scandal’ and had to be ousted from power. Dr. Manmohan Singh government was also accused of phone tapping. In the Watergate scandal of America, which is considered to be the most powerful and liberal democracy in the whole world, Republican Party President Richard Nixon tried to know the activities of his rival Democratic Party by installing a spying device at the headquarters of its rival. Nixon may have been procrastinating on this matter for a long time, but the Indian government has shown its determination to turn milk into water by announcing that it will investigate the Apple phone scandal as soon as it is exposed. We will have to further comment on this matter keeping this reality in mind.
India is the largest democratic country in the world. Democracy is a living, fair and ideal system, in which everyone has equal freedom to follow and conduct activities according to their beliefs. The very foundation of democracy rests on the principles of protecting privacy, in this system every citizen is self-appointed within the ambit of the Constitution. Therefore, the concern of the opposition leaders on this issue can be considered justified, but at the same time, the government’s prompt statement of not getting involved in this matter cannot be ignored. If the government has taken immediate action in this matter, then there is no reason to doubt its intentions. How can the government invite an uninvited crisis by seeing itself being accused of violating anyone’s privacy? Because any such work is completely unconstitutional and illegal. Such anarchy, chaos and dictatorship can only lead to the extinction of democracy.
(The author is a senior journalist and columnist)