Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair has been booked by the Uttar Pradesh Police for calling three Hindutva supremacists “hatemongers” in a tweet, The Wire reported on Wednesday.
Incidentally, all three of them – Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati, Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop – have been booked in hate speech cases in the past few months for making inflammatory statements about Muslims.
On May 27, Zubair wrote Twitter that prime time debates on Indian news channels had become “a platform to encourage hate mongers to speak ill about other religions”.
He shared a clip of a debate on the Times Now channel, called “The Gyanvapi Files”, moderated by its anchor Navika Kumar. The show was about the Gyanvapi Mosque case, in which Hindu plaintiffs have claimed that an image of the Hindu deity Shringar Gauri exists at the site and demanded they be allowed to offer prayers daily.
On May 16, a trial court had directed district officials to seal the wazu khana, or ablution tank, in the mosque after the lawyers of the Hindu plaintiffs claimed to have found a shivling – an idol representing the Hindu deity Shiva – during a video survey.
In his tweet on May 27, Zubair said that Kumar had been doing shows claiming that the structure inside the mosque was a shivling.
“Why do we need Hate Mongers like Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati or Mahant Bajrang Muni or Anand Swaroop to arrange a Dharam Sansad to speak against a community and a Religion when we already have Anchors who can do much better job from News Studios,” Zubair tweeted.
The Hindutva supremacists mentioned by Zubair have all called for violence against Muslims in the last few months.
Between December 17 and December 19 at an event in Haridwar, Hindutva supremacists, including Narsinghanand, had called upon Hindus to buy weapons to commit genocide against Muslims. Narsinghanand and Swaroop were among the 10 persons booked for hate speech, while the former had been arrested as well.
Muni was also arrested in April after he threatened to rape Muslim women while addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur.
The complaint against Zubair was lodged by Bhagwan Sharan, who identifies himself as the district head of Hindutva organisation Rashtriya Hindu Sher Sena, The Wire reported. Sharan said that his religious sentiments had been hurt by Zubair’s tweet.
In his complaint, Sharan alleged that Zubair was inciting Muslims to murder Hindu leaders.
Zubair has been booked under Indian Penal Code Section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) as well as Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
The Digipub News India Foundation on Thursday condemned the “harassment of Mohammed Zubair”.
The digital news platforms body noted that this five cases have been registered against Zubair in the past two years. In a statement, the press body urged the Uttar Pradesh government to withdraw the case immediately, and to stop the use of stringent laws as tools against journalists.
“It does not bode well for a society when hate speech and active calls to violence go unpunished, furthermore when journalists who report judiciously to ensure that citizens are not victimised are slapped with oppressive laws,” the statement noted.