Why just WhatsApp, ask Israel: Owaisi tells Centre

The Israeli Ambassador should be summoned and asked about the matter, said the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president. Photo/Twitter (@aimim_national)

AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi on Sunday hit out at the Centre over the 'snooping' controversy and demanded that the government ask Israel how its technology firm listened to WhatsApp conversations of Indians.

Addressing a public meeting here late Saturday, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president said the Israeli Ambassador should be summoned and asked about the matter.

"Now it has been learnt that an Israeli company listened to WhatsApp conversations. The Israeli Ambassador should be summoned and asked as to why their company listened to our phones? But, you (government) are not asking the Israeli company, instead, you are questioning WhatsApp. Why are you afraid to ask," Owaisi said.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Thursday said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus, leading to a furore over breach of citizens' privacy.

WhatsApp said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities' spies hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.

Following the disclosure by WhatsApp, the Indian government has asked the messaging platform to explain the matter and list out the measures that have been taken by it to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indians.

Criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Owaisi said there is a need for jobs in the country and there are poverty and rising costs, and alleged that the Prime Minister was neither worried or cared about it.

He further attacked the Modi government over India ranking 102 in the Global Hunger Index.

India has slipped to the 102nd position on the Global Hunger Index 2019 of 117 countries, slipping from its 2018 position of 95 and behind its neighbours Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"You (Narendra Modi) have been the Prime Minister for five years. You got more than 300 seats (Lok Sabha). We want to ask one question Modiji, how it happened? Owaisi said those who talk of nationalism should have some shame. You have brought India to such a situation. Is this your nationalism. Shame on you. Twenty crore people sleep empty stomach daily in our country and you talk big things. BJP and RSS make fun of the poor, Owaisi alleged.

There is 24 per cent unemployment ratio among the post-graduate and degree-holders, he said adding there is a slowdown. People are upset. But, our Prime Minister is in Thailand. He is signing agreement on RCEP."

Amid the ongoing standoff between BJP and its ally Shiv Sena over the formation of the next government in Maharashtra, Owaisi said, "They (BJP and Shiv Sena) fought (the elections) together. Now after elections, it's 50:50... They should think of the people of Maharashtra. Rains in Satara (district) have destructed crops, and farmers are in distress, but they are not worried about it." In the just-held state polls, the BJP won 105 seats, while the Sena got 56 in the 288-member assembly.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena is demanding the post of Chief Minister for 2.5 years and 50:50 division of portfolios. Both these demands have been rejected by the BJP which has insisted that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis would continue to hold the post for the next five years.

Owaisi said the AIMIM has decided that it would neither support the BJP nor the Shiv Sena in the formation of the government in that state.

Uddhav Thackeray, you first get the resignation from your minister from Delhi (central government). If you want your Chief Minister, then you cannot ride on two horses. Shiv Sena, you decide. It seems Uddhav Thackeray is afraid of Modi," he said.

On the ongoing indefinite strike by employees and workers of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), Owaisi appealed to them to accept the proposal of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to give up their stir and join duty by November 5 midnight.

"Think over and accept the Chief Minister's offer and sit for talks with him," Owaisi said. 

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