SRINAGAR, July 23, 2021: Apart from Delhi-based Kashmiri journalists and a prominent civil society activist critical of the official policy towards Jammu and Kashmir, more than 25 people from the Kashmir Valley have been identified as potential targets of surveillance of infiltration between 2017 and 2019 was selected in unknown government agency. According to leaked records reviewed by The Wire, the agency is also believed to be a client of the Israeli company, NSO Group. A number of prominent separatist leaders, politicians, human rights activists, journalists and businessmen of Kashmir fall into the trap of espionage.
“For the other potential targets in Kashmir, it was not possible, for one reason or another, to conduct forensic analysis. As The Wire and its media partners have noted, the appearance of a number in the leaked database does not necessarily mean that the phone in question had been infected; but it does mean that the phone number was likely selected for potential surveillance,” it said.
“Others on the leaked database include at least two members of People’s Democratic party (PDP) chief and former chief minister of J&K Mehbooba Mufti’s family… their selection as potential targets of surveillance happened when Mufti was still chief minister of the erstwhile State and in a coalition with the BJP… when asked if she thought there was a link, Mufti declined to comment,” it stated.
J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari’s brother Tariq Bukhari also appeared in the list, besides at least four members of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s family, including his son-in-law, journalist Iftikhar Gilani; and his son, scientist Syed Naseem Geelani, it noted.
The current head of the Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was a potential target of surveillance between 2017 and 2019, apart from his driver, human rights activist Waqar Bhatti and at least five Kashmiri journalists, including Muzamil Jaleel of The Indian Express, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi with The Hindustan Times at the time, Iftikhar Geelani (formerly with DNA) and Sumir Kaul of PTI, it said.
Shabir Hussain, a Delhi-based political commentator from Kashmir, was also in the list, it pointed.
The Wire said the leak also suggests that the current head of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was a potential target of surveillance between 2017 and 2019. Farooq, as the chief cleric of the Jamia Masjid, was a revered 14th-century religious center located in the city of Srinagar. , is also a very important religious figure in the valley.
Records suggest that Farooq’s driver was also probably the target of surveillance. Waqar Bhatti, a prominent human rights activist in the Valley, was also likely the target of surveillance.
Data from the Pegasus Project also shows that at least five Kashmiri journalists – including Muzamil Jaleel of The Indian Express, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi with the Hindustan Times at the time, Iftikhar Gilani with DNA and Sumir Kaul of PTI was also targeted in a cyber-surveillance program. The name of the fifth journalist is being hidden on his request. The Wire said that Shabbir Hussain, a political commentator from Kashmir’s Delhi, is also on the list.
Others selected for possible surveillance include Zafar Akbar Bhat, an influential Shia cleric associated with the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat and prominent separatist leader.
The Wire said records also show that two social workers and a senior faculty member at an agricultural science university in the area were also selected for possible surveillance. (PTK)