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Monday, August 8, 2022

Modi Critic’s Detention By Indian Police over 2 year old Tweet drawing heat

A well-known Muslim journalist has been detained by Delhi police on suspicion of defaming religious beliefs on social media; this action has been denounced by proponents of free expression.

According to KPS Malhotra, a deputy commissioner in Delhi’s Cyber Crime Unit, Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News that exposes false information in the Indian media, was detained on Monday and held overnight in police custody.

According to Malhotra, Zubair was detained in accordance with two Indian Penal Code provisions pertaining to upholding religious harmony. Zubair frequently criticizes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) via Twitter for what he and other detractors allege is an assault on the rights of the nation’s approximately 200 million Muslims.

His detention coincides with repeated claims from opposition that the BJP is employing laws from the colonial past to stifle all forms of criticism and promote self-censorship. According to Zubair’s attorney, Kawalpreet Kaur, the journalist had been called in for interrogation in connection with a criminal inquiry into his social media posts that was set to begin in 2020 but for which the Delhi High Court had earlier granted him protection from arrest. She claimed that when he attended to the summons, police detained him in connection with another case.

In a police report, a Twitter user accused Zubair of demeaning Hindus in a tweet about renaming a hotel after a Hindu deity in 2018. Kaur revealed the police report to CNN. She claimed that the authorities failed to notify Zubair and violated protocol. When CNN questioned Malhotra, the deputy commissioner, about whether the arrest had been legal or not, he remained silent.

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Zubair had blasted Nupur Sharma, the BJP’s national spokeswoman who has since been dismissed, earlier this month for making disparaging remarks against Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, which sparked a diplomatic spat. At least 15 countries with a majority of Muslims denounced Sharma’s comments, with some of them recalling India’s diplomats and labelling them as “Islamophobic.” Videos that Zubair alleges depict Hindu radicals making hate speeches against Islam, a minority faith in India where over 80% of the population practices Hinduism, are posted on social media recently.

The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded that Zubair be “immediately and unconditionally released” and that “harassment of him in reprisal for his work” stop on Monday.

 

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