Delhi Police arrested Mohammed Zubair, 39, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, on Monday 27 June 2022 supposedly on a tweet he posted in 2018 with no notice or reason given before his arrest and was then taken to an undisclosed location.
Zubair, a former telecom engineer from the Bengaluru, and Sinha, a software engineer from Ahmedabad, founded Alt News in 2017 and have since exposed numerous fake news pushed by Hindu right-wing cells through mainstream or social media in support of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Two days before Zubair’s arrest, Teesta Setalvad, prominent Indian rights defender was picked up by the anti-terrorism wing of the police in Gujarat and was formally arrested on Sunday 26 June, with rights group Amnesty International calling it a “direct reprisal against those who dare to question” the government’s human rights record.
It was Zubair who exposed BJP national spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and Delhi media operation head Naveen Kumar Jindal who vilified Prophet Mohammad and his family in a TV debate and on social media towards the end of May.
Global social media outcry, particularly in the Middle East led a number of Muslim countries to question the anti-Muslim policies of the Modi government in India.
Muslims staged protests in many parts of India that also led to clashes with members of the BJP goons and police, particularly in UP where scores of young Muslims were arrested and threatened with the demolition of their homes.
A number of videos went viral on social media showcasing widespread police brutality against Muslim protestors in various cities of India and several cases of severe beatings under police custody and threats of demolition of the family homes of hundreds arrested since Friday 10 June.
“The government of India is selectively and viciously cracking down on Muslims who dare to speak up and peacefully express their dissent against the discrimination faced by them,” said Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India Board.
There has been a trend for several months now called “bulldozer justice”, where heavy machinery has been deployed to demolish houses, shops and community establishments targeting the Muslim minority in several cities of India.
A widely publicised case has been the demolition of the family home of Javed Mohammed, the leader of the Welfare Party in India in the state of UP ruled by a monk Yogi Adityanath, well known for his Islamophobic outbursts.
Javed’s young daughter, Afreen Fatima, 22, a student activist has been vocal about laws they consider discriminatory to Muslims and the bulldozing of their family home last week by the government was considered as a punishment for their activism.
In a media release dated Tuesday 14 June, Amnesty International India said, “Indian authorities must immediately put an end to the excessive use of force in response to large scale protests in the country that has resulted in the death of at least two people, including a child, and in many others suffering injuries since last Friday.”
The organization also called for the immediate and unconditional release of those arbitrarily arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
A number of Australian organisations including ANIC and IFAM issued statements condemning the abusive outbursts by the former BJP officials as well as highlighting the increase in vilification of Islam and demonisation of Muslim in India since Modi and Yogi came to power, nationally and in the most populous state of UP respectively.
Statement by IFAM:
On 10 June, media reported an incident where, police personnel can be seen striking batons, pelting stones and shooting bystanders during protests in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Another bystander was shot six times by the police while returning from the market.
Two protesters including a 15-year-old child was fatally shot in the head by the police. Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, police may only use force for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and may not use more force than needed to achieve this objective.
Moreover, police may use firearms only as a last resort and when strictly necessary to protect themselves or others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury; the intentional lethal use of firearms is only permissible if strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
In another video reported by multiple media outlets and shared by many on Twitter including the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a police officer is repeatedly hitting detained male protesters with batons in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh while they cry in fear and pain and one protester complains of a fractured arm. Instead of criticizing the use of force, it was celebrated by former police officers and BJP politicians on social media.
Baton strikes while a subject is under control are unnecessary and disproportionate, and amount to using batons punitively – which amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, a violation of international law.
“Presenting and treating all protesters, including peaceful ones, as a threat for public order is deeply worrying and is part of an alarming escalation of the states’ measures targeting Muslims.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and various state chief ministers have done little to show that they disapprove of any statement portraying Muslims as a risk for public order or embedding other stereotypes and prejudices that may contribute to justifying discrimination and violence against Muslims. They should publicly show their opposition for any such statement” said Aakar Patel.
In another video reported by multiple media outlets and shared by many on Twitter including the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a police officer is repeatedly hitting detained male protesters with batons in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh while they cry in fear and pain and one protester complains of a fractured arm.
Instead of criticizing the use of force, it was celebrated by former police officers and BJP politicians on social media. Baton strikes while a subject is under control are unnecessary and disproportionate, and amount to using batons punitively – which amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, a violation of international law.