Rights activists condemn India's arrest of Modi critic Mohammed Zubair

Published June 28, 2022
A file photo of Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of the fact-checking site Alt News. — Mohammed Zubair Twitter
A file photo of Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of the fact-checking site Alt News. — Mohammed Zubair Twitter

Rights activists and journalists on Tuesday condemned the “arbitrary” and “unlawful” arrest of the co-founder of a top fact-checking website in India who has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mohammed Zubair was detained on Monday after being questioned by police, before a Delhi court ordered he be held for four more days for further interrogation.

Zubair had played a role in drawing attention to incendiary remarks about Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) recently made by a spokesperson for Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that sparked widespread protests across the Islamic world.

Amnesty International said India was “targeting” Zubair for his “crucial work” combating disinformation and calling out discrimination against minorities.

Amnesty's India board chair Aakar Patel said the arrest “shows the dangers facing human rights defenders in India have reached a crisis point”.

Pratik Sinha, who runs the Alt News website together with Zubair, said he was detained illegally and without warning.

Zubair has been one of the fiercest critics of the BJP and has frequently drawn attention to hate speech by Hindu fringe groups.

He has faced several legal cases over the years that supporters have dismissed as politically motivated attempts to silence him.

Police cited a four-year-old tweet by Zubair about a Hindu god as the reason for his arrest, saying complaints had been made by religious groups.

But government critics see Zubair's detention as part of a crackdown on free speech and rights activists since Modi's ascent to power in 2014.

“Every person exposing BJP's hate, bigotry and lies is a threat to them,” Rahul Gandhi of India's main opposition Congress party tweeted.

“Arresting one voice of truth will only give rise to a thousand more. Truth always triumphs over tyranny,” Gandhi added.

Amnesty's Patel called the arrest “harassment, intimidation, unlawful and arbitrary”, saying the imprisonment of human rights defenders had become “alarmingly commonplace in India”.

The Editors Guild of India also condemned the arrest.

“This is extremely disturbing,” the journalists' group said, describing Zubair's work as “countering disinformation campaigns in a very objective and factual manner”.

Opinion

Editorial

A call for bloodshed
30 Nov, 2022

A call for bloodshed

The state has wasted precious time by not consolidating its success in pushing TTP out of its strongholds in the north.
Missing childhoods
30 Nov, 2022

Missing childhoods

THE fact is that despite some legal efforts to end the curse of child marriage taking place in Pakistan under the...
Unemployment concerns
30 Nov, 2022

Unemployment concerns

THE ILO finding that labour market recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, as in many other...
Back to politics
Updated 29 Nov, 2022

Back to politics

PDM and PTI must realise that neither will get what they want if they keep fighting bitterly at every turn.
Election delay
29 Nov, 2022

Election delay

OF recent, leaders from the ruling PML-N have been dropping hints about a possible delay in general elections after...
Sugar woes
29 Nov, 2022

Sugar woes

IT’S that time of year again when cane growers get anxious over the delay in the commencement of the new sugar...