India

Twitter account that led to Zubair’s arrest back online

Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt-News, being brought by the Delhi Police to Bengaluru, on Thursday, June 30, 2022, as part of their investigation into a 2018 tweet.

Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt-News, being brought by the Delhi Police to Bengaluru, on Thursday, June 30, 2022, as part of their investigation into a 2018 tweet. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Twitter account (Hanuman Bhakt @balajikijaiin) that led to the Delhi Police filing FIR against Alt-News co-founder Mohd. Zubair and eventually arresting him, came back online on Thursday after being deactivated for around a day.

The account’s June 19 tweet, which was the first post made since its creation in October 2021, formed the basis for the Special Cell’s FIR against Mr. Zubair.

Also read:Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair moves Delhi HC against police remand

Mr. Zubair had on March 2018 posted an image from a Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) approved 1983 Hindi film Kissi Se Na Kehna, which showed a hotel’s name being changed from “Honeymoon Hotel” to “Hanuman Hotel”. The text with his image said: “Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel; After 2014: Hanuman Hotel”. 

The IFSO (Intelligence Fusion Strategic Operations) officer who filed the complaint against this 2018 tweet based on @balajikijaiin’s tweet, had said Mr. Zubair’s post and the photo he had used “are highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people”.

Despite the tweet being from four years ago, the Delhi Police had made the case that its revival had led to a fresh barrage of hateful comments against one community, which hurt its religious sentiments. 

Also read:Alt News’ Mohammed Zubair punished for speaking the truth: Opposition parties

An analysis of the tweet of @balajikijaiin that the police said revived Mr. Zubair’s post from 2018, showed that it had received no interaction on the micro-blogging website until June 27, the day the scribe was arrested and details of the FIR, registered on June 20, were made public.

The anonymous Twitter account saw a steep rise in followers from two before June 27 to over 1,900 as of Thursday evening. The post that the Delhi Police have referred to in their FIR also saw a jump in comments — all made on or after June 27.

None of these comments, seen by The Hindu, explicitly claimed that Mr. Zubair’s post had hurt their religious sentiments — they were mostly congratulatory in nature, praising the Twitter handle for “getting him arrested” and calling its operator a “king”. A few asked how Mr. Zubair’s post could hurt religious sentiments.  

Such congratulatory remarks continued to appear on Thursday too after the account came back online, with some users praising @balajikijaiin for getting Mr. Zubair arrested despite having almost no followers when an organised campaign to do the same did not succeed just days ago.

On the other hand, the social media users who did claim their sentiments were hurt, did so in their comments on Mr. Zubair’s post in question — the frequency of such posts increasing from June 14 onwards.

Significantly, it was on June 14 that the four-year-old tweet was first revived by a user with the handle @thehawekeyx — in a thread picking out old tweets by Mr. Zubair. This thread argued that when suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma could be booked for her remarks about Prophet Mohammad, so should Mr. Zubair, who was the first to report Ms. Sharma’s comments during a television debate. 

This thread triggered a national social media campaign calling for Mr. Zubair’s arrest, trending the hashtag #ArrestMohammedZubair and blaming him for the outrage against Ms. Sharma’s remarks. As this campaign picked up, Arun Pudur, a claimed billionaire businessman, jumped on the bandwagon and offered rewards ranging from “₹1,000 for First FIR”, “₹10,000 for first person to get him arrested”, to “₹50,000 for the first person to get him convicted”.

Also read:Zubair’s arrest a violation of rights, abuse of power: Amnesty

Currently, @balajikijaiin Twitter account has three posts — one calling for action against Mr. Zubair, another calling for action against Alt-News co-founder Pratik Sinha and the third one, an appeal seeking followers. This last one is pinned to the top of the profile. 

Police have said they are not investigating the activities of this account and have insisted in court that it is “not an anonymous account”.


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 1:31:13 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/twitter-account-that-led-to-zubairs-arrest-back-online/article65586346.ece