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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022
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Interview

Govt Has Committed A Crime Against Me, Alleges Journalist As He Moves SC

In a conversation with Outlook, Rupesh Singh talks about the Pegasus attack, the story he was pursuing when he was snooped upon, his message to the government and much more.

Govt Has Committed A Crime Against Me, Alleges Journalist As He Moves SC
Journalist Rupesh Kumar
Govt Has Committed A Crime Against Me, Alleges Journalist As He Moves SC
outlookindia.com
2021-08-05T09:51:41+05:30

‘Ab abhivyakti ke khatre uthane hi honge.(Now, we will have to face the danger of expressing ourselves),’ smiles Journalist Rupesh Kumar as he quotes the famous Hindi poet Muktibodh. It was his answer when I asked him about his message to the journalism fraternity vis-à-vis the recent Pegasus exposé.

Are we in a surveillance state? - Singh grapples with the question as he heads for the hearing of his writ petition in Supreme Court. He and his wife Ipsa Shatakshi have moved SC against the Union Govt of India and Ministry of Home Affairs, on the alleged infiltration, and hacking of their mobile phones using the Pegasus malware.

In a conversation with Outlook, Rupesh Singh talks about the Pegasus attack, the story he was pursuing when he was snooped upon, his message to the government and much more.

How do you view the current revelations on Pegasus spyware?

This is entirely an attempt to kill democracy. The way the opposition leaders, journalists and activists are being snooped on, is a clear erosion of democracy by the government itself. It is an attack on our fundamental right to privacy.

The government claimed that Pegasus was never bought by them. What do you have to say?

If they didn’t do it, then why aren’t they starting an inquiry? How can a foreign company come and snoop on India’s citizens? If yes, then it was an attack on the sovereignty of the country. How did they let it happen?

Do you consider it as a price paid for being a journalist?

Those who dare to speak for the people in a country whose government is itself anti-people, are bound to face these challenges. When I stepped into journalism, I knew I had to write for the people and journalism would never be a bed of roses.

I am the only journalist in the list who is not from Delhi. I have been doing reports on the corporate loot in Jharkhand, eviction, and forceful displacement of Adivasis in the name of ‘development’, and the marginalization of tribal population. I have done reports on the fake encounters of Adivasis, falsely dubbed as Maoists.

What story were you working on when the phone was kept on surveillance?

I was doing a report on the fake encounter of an Adivasi. On June 9, 2017, in the Giridih district of Jharkhand, an Adivasi named Motilal Baske was killed by the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action or Cobra, a special unit under the Central Reserve Police Force. CRPF claimed that he was a Naxal carrying Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head. During my investigation, I found that Baske was a Doli worker (porter) who physically ferried pilgrims to the Parasnath Hills, a sacred pilgrimage site for the Jain community. He was also enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. I proved that he was a villager and not a Maoist.

After the report was published, many protests were organized in the district by opposition leaders across the party lines and questions were raised in Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha.

Within a few days of the report, I started observing weird activities on my phone. Whenever I was on call, I could hear a beep-beep sound in between. Even when I was not using the phone, I could hear it continuously beeping, so I started avoiding the phone. But the snooping didn’t end there. The three numbers in the Pegasus list also include my wife’s and my sister’s numbers. They started snooping on them, after I stopped using my phone.

What is your message to the government?

The government is turning more and more against its own people. But however hard they try; I am not going to be afraid. In fact, after this incident, I am going to be even more fearless. Even if they put me in jail, I will continue to write the truth till I am alive. The government has committed a crime against me by intruding into my privacy. It has attacked my constitutional right to privacy.

What is your message to the journalism community?

To all my journalist friends, I want to say - If you have come to make money, then I don’t have anything to say to you. If you have come to make society a better place, then you must know that true and fearless journalism has never been a bed of roses and will never be.

‘Ab abhivyakti ke khatre uthane hi honge.(Now, we will have to face the danger of expressing ourselves),’ smiles Journalist Rupesh Kumar as he quotes the famous Hindi poet Muktibodh. It was his answer when I asked him about his message to the journalism fraternity vis-à-vis the recent Pegasus exposé.

Are we in a surveillance state? - Singh grapples with the question as he heads for the hearing of his writ petition in Supreme Court. He and his wife Ipsa Shatakshi have moved SC against the Union Govt of India and Ministry of Home Affairs, on the alleged infiltration, and hacking of their mobile phones using the Pegasus malware.

In a conversation with Outlook, Rupesh Singh talks about the Pegasus attack, the story he was pursuing when he was snooped upon, his message to the government and much more.

 

1.    How do you view the current revelations on Pegasus spyware?

This is entirely an attempt to kill democracy. The way the opposition leaders, journalists and activists are being snooped on, is a clear erosion of democracy by the government itself. It is an attack on our fundamental right to privacy.

 

2.    The government claimed that Pegasus was never bought by them. What do you have to say?

If they didn’t do it, then why aren’t they not starting an inquiry. How can a foreign company come and snoop on India’s citizens? If yes, then it was an attack on the sovereignty of the country. How did they let it happen?

 

3.    Do you consider it as a price paid for being a journalist?

Those who dare to speak for the people in a country whose government is itself anti-people, are bound to face these challenges. When I stepped into journalism, I knew I had to write for the people and journalism would never be a bed of roses.

 

I am the only journalist in the list who is not from Delhi. I have been doing reports on the corporate loot in Jharkhand, eviction, and forceful displacement of Adivasis in the name of ‘development’, and the marginalization of tribal population. I have done reports on the fake encounters of Adivasis, falsely dubbed as Maoists.

 

4.    What story were you working on when the phone was kept on surveillance?

I was doing a report on the fake encounter of an Adivasi. On June 9, 2017, in the Giridih district of Jharkhand, an Adivasi named Motilal Baske was killed by the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action or Cobra, a special unit under the Central Reserve Police Force. CRPF claimed that he was a Naxal carrying Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head. During my investigation, I found that Baske was a Doli worker (porter) who physically ferried pilgrims to the Parasnath Hills, a sacred pilgrimage site for the Jain community. He was also enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. I proved that he was a villager and not a Maoist.

After the report was published, many protests were organized in the district by opposition leaders across the party lines and questions were raised in Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha.

 

Within a few days of the report, I started observing weird activities on my phone. Whenever I was on call, I could hear a beep-beep sound in between. Even when I was not using the phone, I could hear it continuously beeping, so I started avoiding the phone. But the snooping didn’t end there. The three numbers in the Pegasus list also include my wife’s and my sister’s numbers. They started snooping on them, after I stopped using my phone.

 

5.    What is your message to the government?

The government is turning more and more against its own people. But however hard they try; I am not going to be afraid. In fact, after this incident, I am going to be even more fearless. Even if they put me in jail, I will continue to write the truth till I am alive. The government has committed a crime against me by intruding into my privacy. It has attacked my constitutional right to privacy.

 

6.    What is your message to the journalism community?

To all my journalist friends, I want to say - If you have come to make money, then I don’t have anything to say to you. If you have come to make society a better place, then you must know that true and fearless journalism has never been a bed of roses and will never be.

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