A court in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur sent Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in judicial remand for 14 days in connection to a tweet in which he described three Hindutva supremacists as “hatemongers”, the police told Scroll.in.
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 Monday morning, the Delhi Police took Zubair to Sitapur to produce him in a local court, ANI reported.
Circle Officer of Sitapur Police Piyush Singh told Scroll.in that the journalist will serve the judicial remand in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he is already in custody in a separate case.
“The concerned investigating officer has been directed to record the statement which he will do in a day or two,” Singh said. “Once that is done we will take a call regarding moving for police custody for further interrogation.”
Zubair will now have to get bail separately in the two cases – one filed in Delhi and the other in Sitapur – to be able to walk out of jail.
On May 27, Zubair wrote on 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 debate 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 a court-appointed surveyor reported that an oval object had been found in the tank of the Muslim place of worship. Hindu petitioners claimed it is a shivling, a symbolic representation of Shiva.
Muslims, however, say that the object is actually a fountain.
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.
On June 1, the Uttar Pradesh Police had booked Zubair based on a complaint filed by Bhagwan Sharan, who identifies himself as the district head of Hindutva organisation Rashtriya Hindu Sher Sena.
A first information report was registered at Khairabad police station, The Quint reported.
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 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.
Case against Zubair in Delhi
In a separate case, Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments in a tweet he had posted in March 2018.
The first information report against Zubair was based on a complaint by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar, who said he was monitoring social media when he came across the March 2018 tweet after a handle named Hanuman Bhakt raised objections.
The handle had taken objection to Zubair’s tweet, showing a hotel signboard with the name “Honeymoon Hotel” repainted to “Hanuman Hotel”. The journalist’s lawyer has argued in the court that the photo is a screenshot taken from a 1983 Hindi movie.
On July 2, the Delhi Police added against him charges of criminal conspiracy, causing disappearance of evidence and violating foreign funding norms.
Several press bodies have criticised Zubair’s arrest and called for his unconditional release. A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on June 28 said that journalists anywhere in the world should not be jailed for what they write, tweet or say.