A first information report has been lodged in Uttar Pradesh against Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by calling Mahant Bajrang Muni ‘Udasin’, Yati Narsinghanand and Swami Anand Swarup “hatemongers” on Twitter.
Zubair has been booked under Indian Penal Code Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), and Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act by the Khairabad police in Sitapur district.
The FIR was lodged on a complaint from Bhagwan Sharan, who is the Sitapur unit chief of the Hindu Sher Sena. “This complaint is with regard to hurting our religious sentiments by using derogatory words against mahants of our dharam sthal, which is a symbol of our faith. On May 27, I saw on Twitter that Mohammad Zubair had used derogatory words like ‘hatemongers’ against Rashtriya Hindu Sher Sena national custodian Bajrang Muni. Zubair had also disrespected Hindu Yati Narsinghanand and Swami Anand Swarup,” read the FIR. “He (Zubair) has intentionally tried to spread hatred in society and incite Muslims and hurt Hindu sentiments as part of a conspiracy. There is anger among us Hindus by such acts of his,” it added. The complaint also alleged that Zubair was “inciting Muslims to murder Hindu leaders”.
A senior police officer said the allegations against Zubair were being investigated. “We are looking into the matter, and the investigation is underway,” the officer said.
While Zubair did not wish to comment on the FIR, Alt News editor-in-chief Pratik Sinha said it was a clear example of “selective targeting”.
“This is a clear case of selective targeting. The three concerned individuals have been called hatemongers by several media organisations. What does a ‘hatemonger’ mean? Somebody who repeatedly uses hate to promote division in society. That is what they have done and hence, they fit into the definition of hatemongers. The work that Alt News does against hate speech and misinformation bothers a lot of people and hence, Zubair is being targeted as he is a co-founder of Alt News,” said the editor-in-chief of the fact-checking website.
Regarding allegations that Zubair is inciting people and spreading hatred, Sinha said, “A cursory look at Zubair’s timeline on social media will be enough to show that Zubair never promotes hate or a divisive agenda. His work is journalistic in nature where he tweets on hate speech and misinformation.”
In April, Bajrang Muni, who allegedly made a hate speech and issued a “rape threat” in Sitapur, was granted bail by a local court after he spent around 10 days in prison.
In the two-minute video of the speech made outside a mosque, he could be heard using the term “jihadi” to refer to a community and threatening them if any Hindu girl was harassed by any man of that community, he would himself rape their women.