Arrested Alt News fact-checker Mohammed Zubair’s message is ‘very provocative’: Delhi police

Mohammed Zubair posted the tweet in March 2018

New Delhi:

Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, was arrested last night over a 2018 tweet, weeks after he denounced BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s inflammatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad that sparked a huge crisis for the government and led to protests. in India and the wrath of the Gulf countries.

Mohammed Zubair’s tweet was “very provocative and more than enough to stir up a feeling of hatred” among people, according to a Delhi Police (FIR) news report.

In the tweet, Mr Zubair shared a clip of legendary filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1983 classic, Kissi Se Na Kehna.

The image shows a hotel sign that reads “Hanuman Hotel” in Hindi. Paint marks suggest it was previously called “Honeymoon Hotel” and the “Honeymoon” was changed to “Hanuman”. Mr. Zubair wrote in the tweet, “Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel, After 2014: Hanuman Hotel.”

Mr Zubair was charged with offending religious feelings and promoting enmity and was taken into custody for a day. It is produced in a court in Delhi.

The FIR was filed on a complaint by Delhi Police Deputy Inspector Arun Kumar. The officer said he was monitoring social media when he came across a tweet from a handler named “Hanuman Bhakt”, objecting to Mr Zubair’s tweet.

“The transmission and publication of such messages has been deliberately done by Mohammed [email protected]_bear through electronic media to insult the religious feelings of a particular community with the intention of causing a breach of the peace…”, says the FIR.

Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha tweeted yesterday that Mr Zubair had been called to Delhi for questioning in a different case from 2020, in which the court protected him from arrest. But he was arrested in this new case instead, without notice, Mr Sinha said. “No copies of the FIR are given to us despite repeated requests.”

A Delhi police statement said Mr Zubair was ‘evasive on issues and neither provided technical equipment necessary for the purpose of the investigation nor cooperated with the enquiry.

KPS Senior Police Officer Malhotra said Mr Zubair’s tweet caused a “Twitter storm with hate speech, damaging community harmony”. The officer added that he was “evasive” and that his phone had been formatted. “That constituted grounds for arrest,” he said, according to news agency ANI.

The arrest sparked massive outrage, with opposition targeting the Delhi Police, which falls under the Union Home Ministry.

Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra said Delhi police are “going out of their way to please the sahibs” and drew a parallel with suspended BJP spokesman Nupur Sharma, whose remarks on the Prophet Muhammad had provoked protests and condemnation from several Gulf countries.

In fact, it was Mr. Zubair who first reported Ms. Sharma’s remarks during a televised debate.

“@zoo_bear was arrested on a trumped up case without notice while helping out in case HC granted him protection. While Ms. Fringe Sharma is granted lifetime protection at taxpayer expense for EXACTLY the same offences,” she tweeted.

In another post, Ms. Moitra shared a photo from the 1983 film with a post, “It’s really the moody bangs.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Stopping one voice of truth will only spawn a thousand more.”

Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted that Alt News was providing a “vital service” and called Mr Zubair’s arrest an “assault on the truth”.

Virginia C. Taylor