I have been persuaded by Noam Chomsky’s luminous and lucid insight that the politics we are familiar with simply befogs and obfuscates simple moral questions of right or wrong,just or unjust,good or evil.The questions that the Pegasus controversy raises are also basically moral ones,if you clean up all the usual confusing clutter.
This is dismissed by vested and extremely partisan interests that resort to familiar dodges.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has appealed to a TMC MP to help restore orderly functioning of Parliament so that “issues close to people’s welfare” may be discussed.That seems to mean that Pegasus does not involve issues of interest to the people.Does it only agitate the targets of the fantastic electronic snooping and therefore people should cry a halt to all this pother about Pegasus? That breath-takingly presumes that only the members of the NDA are concerned about issues close to the people.But all members of Parliament are denoted by the term ‘people’s representative’ that belongs to the language of constitution and laws.Secondly,as has been repeated ad nauseam, the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution and threatened by Pegasus are very much issues of interest to the people as these legally support and sustain the very dignity and agential potency of the people as citizens,as the ultimate sovereign.
Then the NSO, the company that markets the spyware to governments approved by the Israeli government,and is now exposed to international opprobrium,has bewailed that “someone has to do the dirty work”.Which again presumes that without such dirty work government cannot simply exist.Is fighting and disarming terrorists or ideological maniacs who endanger normal,civilised life ‘dirty work’?
By using such terms,surely,the company claims that all of whom any given government disapproves are pests who have got to be identified,bumped off, crippled,or incarcerated for life,and that sort of work is ‘dirty’ like sweeping garbage.Worse,it allows the government the sole right to decide who are pests (‘termites’) and who are not.It is such thinking that had led to the enormous and hair-raising atrocities in Nazi concentration camps.It is sobering to think that politicians politicians who derive their very historical legitimacy from rejection of Nazi mentality can advance such reasons.
So such sophistry actually amounts to a betrayal of democracy,or people’s interest in government.
The questions raised are very simple and straightforward.Did the government buy this spyware?
Did it use it against people who can by no means be recognized as terorists or violent criminals? On what constitutional ground has such use been authorised?
Who or which agency of the government has made such horrible and absurd use of this dangerous spyware?Since France has instituted an enquiry India should follow suit.
There are some more disturbing trends.Its apparent purchase and use date from a period when leaders of three countries,Israel,India and the USA enjoyed extraordinary bonhomie.Geopolitics,the new dirty buzzword, had merged with internal politics of these countries and in the end provoked a serious public resistance.Do we need an honest re-look at those trends?
The cover for such dirty work has been ‘national security’.Does it have to be identical with the sense of safety of a particular government or party in power?
How does a country ensure that intelligence-gathering by a government is monitored by independent neutral agency to the satisfaction of the people?
Even in the United States such intelligence policies and methods come under regular bipartisan scrutiny of the Congress.The secret crimes by CIA had come to light under such scrutiny.These days the national security czar seems to enjoy unlimited jurisdiction, and his presence and influence seem to extend to all spheres of the state,but without any accountability. Advocate Prashant Bhushan has fereted out details of his budget which has shot up phenomenally from a mere 33 crores rupees to some 880 crores(if I remember the figures right).He conjectures that Pegasus is covered by this unaccounted budget,but this so far remains a conjecture.
Unless the government comes clean,and its vocal commitment to democracy does not allow any evasion or alibi,we shall only be on the trail of a flying horse that leaves no hoof-marks.
Hiren Gohain is a social scientist and literary critic