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Who is Muhammad Zubair and why was he arrested?

Photograph: Mohammed Zubair/Twitter

It was Monday morning when police arrested Mohammed Zubair from his home.

A journalist by profession, the young Indian was arrested b the cyber unit of Delhi Police, but the concern still remains why? 

Mohammed Zubair

Mohammed Zubair is the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News. He founded the news website with former software engineer Pratik Sinha in 2017. The purpose of his news website was to combat fake news.

FIR

He was arrested over a 2018 tweet. The FIR was registered by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar against Mohammed Zubair based on a complaint by a man who had tagged the Delhi Police on social media. In his complaint, he alleged that Zubair hurt his religious sentiments.

It is said that the tweet by Mohammed Zubair was ‘highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred’ among people.

Tweet

In the 2018’s tweet, Zubair had shared a clip from legendary filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1983 classic Kissi Se Na Kehna. The image shows a hotel board that reads ‘Hanuman Hotel’ in Hindi.

Paint marks suggest that it was earlier called ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ and the “Honeymoon” was changed to ‘Hanuman’. Zubair wrote in the tweet, ‘Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel, After 2014: Hanuman Hotel’.

Massive outrage

Zubair’s arrest has triggered massive outrage, with the opposition targeting Delhi Police, which reports to the Union Home Ministry as he was arrested weeks after he called out BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s incendiary remarks on Prophet Muhammad that triggered a huge crisis for the government and led to protests in India and anger from Gulf countries.

Freedom of speech

The arrest of journalist Mohammed Zubair marks another low for press freedom in India, where it is said that the government has created a hostile and unsafe environment for members of the press reporting on sectarian issues.

Press club

The Indian Press Club demanded that the authorities must stop harassing Zubair and a committee should be formed to protect journalists

Hindu-Muslim clash 

It can be said that Zubair’s arrest was a reply to Muslims who protested against Nupur Sharma. They not only staged protests and but also Indian Muslims’ protests escalated a diplomatic row with Arab countries boycotting India.

Growing religious intolerance

Indian critics believe Sharma’s comments reflect the deep religious polarisation that the country has been witnessing over the past few years. According to the critics, religious polarisation has increased in India since the BJP came to power. 

Even Indian TV channels have held provocative debates and social media has seen rampant hate over the issue. Many people associated with right-wing organisations often make controversial statements on TV shows, but for critics, Sharma was not a ‘fringe element’ as the BJP has claimed, instead she was an official spokesperson of the party, tasked with representing the BJP’s views.

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