Believe it or not! The reason for journalist Mohammad Zubair’s sudden arrest is a four year old tweet, wherein he had posted a photo of a Bollywood comedy film from 1983 directed by the legendary Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
In the evening of Monday, June 27, officers with the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations unit of the Delhi police arrested Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News. He was booked under sections 153 (giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 295 (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders celebrated the arrest as a victory of truth. BJP general secretary C T Ravi went on to call him a ‘jihadi’ and accused him of inciting violence.
The police sources have confirmed that Zubair’s crime was the tweet dated March 24, 2018. The police also claimed that Zubair’s conduct during the investigation was found “questionable”, warranting his custodial interrogation to “unravel the conspiracy in this matter”.
The Twitter handle of a self proclaimed ‘Hanuman bhakt’, which complained to the police against Zubair, has tweeted only once since its apparent inception in October 2021 – the tweet targeting Zubair, published June 19, 2022.
Ironically, the image of the hotel signboard in the tweet which prompted Delhi Police to arrest Zubair was also used as the lead image in an article in the Indian Express in March 2018, and has received no particular attention from those religiously outraged.
In fact, the image is actually a screenshot from the 1983 movie – Kissi Se Na Kehna – duly cleared by the censor board at the time and shown innumerable times on television since then.