‘Kissi se na kehna’: Why Md. Zubair was arrested and taken to Bengaluru

The image and the tweet shared four years ago in 2018 threaten breach of peace, maintains Delhi Police, with no evidence to show if the tweet did any damage in the last four years

‘Kissi se na kehna’: Why Md. Zubair was arrested and taken to Bengaluru

NHS Staff Reporter

Mohammed Zubair has tried to incite enmity between two communities when he tweeted in 2018 a still from a 40-year-old film.

There, that is the charge against Zubair (38), a former engineer with a telecom company in Bangalore, married with three children and the co-founder of the fact checking website Altnews.

The absurdity of the charge is borne out by the anonymous complainant who tagged Delhi Police to his tweet in June. The complainant had reportedly opened his Twitter account in 2021 and has tweeted only once since then. And once Delhi Police arrested Md Zubair, the account was deleted. It no longer existed on Wednesday.

The complaint itself was shocking enough for Delhi Police. A still from the Rishikesh Mukherjee’s film Kissi Se Na Kehna, it shows Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval, playing a couple, looking for ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ to check in but find that the name had been changed to ‘Hanuman Hotel’.

It offended the complainant no end. Hanuman was a Brahmachari, a bachelor. By linking him to ‘honeymoon’, Zubair had hurt religious sentiments, he complained. “Linking our God Hanumanji with Honeymoon is a direct insult to Hindus because he is brahmachari. Kindly take action (sic),” said the anonymous complainant through the handle @HanumanBhakt. That was enough for the Delhi police to file an FIR.

“The said post of Mohd. Zubair containing picture and words against a particular religious community are highly provocative and done deliberately, which are more than sufficient to incite hatred among people which can be detrimental for the maintenance of public tranquillity,” the Police said in a statement.

Since the tweet dated back to 2018 and Delhi Police clearly had no complaint of any breach of peace and public tranquility between 2018 and June 2022, it is not clear why they jumped on the fact-checker. Indeed the entire film, which obviously received a censor certificate, is still available on the Internet and is not known to have caused any breach of peace in the last 40 years.

Or it is far too clear because it was Zubair who had flagged the puerile and vile comment on Prophet Mohammad by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. The ruling party was forced to suspend her and the Government of India had to apologise to several Islamic nations who summoned Indian envoys to protest. That was the last straw and within a month police had made the arrest.

Zubair was called for questioning in a separate case in which he could not be arrested by orders of the Delhi High Court. But when he turned up, he was arrested for the complaint about which he clearly had no idea.

KPS Malhotra, DCP, IFSO, Delhi Police, told news agency ANI, “If you endorse a view on social media, it becomes your view. Retweeting and saying I don’t know, doesn’t stand. Responsibility is yours. Time does not matter, you only have to retweet and it becomes new. Police action was taken when the matter came to our cognizance.”

“If someone is booked in several cases it’s our right to question him in all,” he added and pointed out that rules had been followed, the accused was produced before the court which did remand him to custody. There must, therefore, be some substance to the case, he said.

Not everyone is convinced. Retweeting a tweet is merely to let one’s own circles know about the original tweet, hold several Twitter users. “By the logic advanced by Delhi Police one can retweet something tweeted by PM Modi 10 years ago and a third person can complain that his sentiment has been hurt in 2022, ten years later,” quipped another.

While Zubair does not apparently like to be called a journalist, he has been a one-man news agency, flagging events that the mainstream media were then forced to follow up. Silencing him therefore had become necessary, it would seem.

He is, however, not the only journalist who has been silenced. Besides a number of them in Kashmir, Siddiq Kappan remains incarcerated for his crime of trying to cover the Hathras rape and murder.

But Zubair’s arrest has been so brazen and the explanation so bizarre that even the office of the UN Secretary General has been forced to react. One waits to see how the Indian judiciary reacts.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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