‘Cases Against Zubair Fabricated; An Attempt To Stifle Free Voice’

Yusuf Kirmani, a senior journalist and political analyst, says independent voices are facing oppression at the hands of state agencies today

On 15th August 1947, India got freedom from British rule. It wasn’t just the freedom from the Britishers but also freedom of speech, expression, movement, among other things. The freedom we took, after more than a century of struggle, is withering away and at the brink of collapse. This government is against all the freedom which we won from the British Raj in 1947.

The hounding of Mohammad Zubair is an open case of the government’s attempt to take away the freedom of speech and expression from people. The Delhi Police lodged an FIR under IPC Section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 295-A (malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) against Zubair earlier this month. The entire case against him is fabricated. There is little truth in it.

Since 2017, Zubair and Pratik Sinha have been busting fake news via their AltNews platform. During these years, they exposed the false propaganda of various political leaders and parties. The BJP and its leaders were found propagating fake news and propaganda clips many a time. But when AltNews exposed the lies and propaganda of the BJP as political party itself, the ‘Empire’ hit back with state might.

In the past two years, there were several FIRs registered against him in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh. But this time, the Delhi Police, which works under the Centre, decided to proceed with a newly lodged case and arrest Zubair. The government was looking for an opportunity to implicate him and they finally found it.

Kirmani (inset) also questions the role of judiciary for not providing relief to Zubair in custody

The role of the judiciary is now under scanner. The current situation demands unprecedented action from the judiciary, which we are yet to witness. In Zubair’s case, the court noticed how fresh FIRs were being filed against him in UP after the arrest, but it overlooked the malicious intent behind it. The court should have taken a suo moto cognizance of it. The court must have asked the Delhi Police why they called Zubair in connection with one case and arrested him in another.

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When pillars of democracy are crumbling, a handful of independent media are fighting to save the freedom of speech and expression on behalf of 1.3 billion people. In this process, they are also facing oppression at the hands of the state. The case against Zubair is an example.

In the past, the media organizations like The Wire, NewsClick, News Laundry, and others, who are asking tough questions from the government, have been raided by state agencies. The sole aim behind the harassment is to stifle the independent voice in this country.

Sadly, the people of this country are unable to recognize their saviour. People don’t realize how they are losing their right to information by supporting ‘Godi’ media and opposing the likes of Zubair and The Wire.

When all forces are against us and are in an opportunity to take away our freedom, I remember an old song by Mohammad Rafi. “Apni Aazadi Ko Hum Hargiz Mita Sakte Nahi, Sar Kata Sakte Hain Lekin Sar Jhuka Sakte Nahi. Humne Sadiyon Mein Ye Azaadi Ki Nemat Payi Hai, Saikdon Qurbaniyan De Kar Ye Daulat Payi Hai.”

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘Govt Showed Unusual Hurry In Forming SIT To Probe Zubair Case’

Nutan Thakur, a lawyer in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, feels Yogi Government action in AltNews case smacks of unethical bias

I have been following the cases registered against AltNews co-founder Mohammad Zubair in Uttar Pradesh under various Sections of IPC. In all, there are six first information reports (FIRs) filed against the fact-checker Mohammad Zubair.

These FIRs mainly pertain to making alleged sarcastic comments against a news channel anchor, hurting sentiments of Hindu community, making objectionable comments on religious deities, uploading provocative posts etc. in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and Hathras districts of the state. Each case is being handled by a separate Investigating Officer (IO).

One fine day, out of the blue, the Uttar Pradesh government orders setting up a special investigation team (SIT) headed by an IPS officer to oversee the bunch of cases. As the proceedings go, all the IOs will now need to submit their findings or evidence to the SIT head.

There are separate provisions in the CRPC and a proper channel for the formation of an SIT but the “unnecessary haste” shown in the Mohammad Zubair case apparently reflects a political bias.

As far as I can make out, none of the charges is as complicated that an Inspector or a Sub-Inspector rank officer in a station (where the FIR is registered) cannot investigate and submit a charge sheet.

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And contrary to the official claim, I am sure this will not only slow down the investigation but also affect the morale of ground-level investigation officers. For, this (formation of SIT) is also, in a way, about questioning their ability.

It has been about a week since the formation of the SIT, but nothing new has come out yet. As far as the process goes, team members are selected for the SIT after which it begins it probe. So, if you see, this could also be a ploy to further delay the investigations and keep the case in suspension. Such delay tactics are often used to keep an accused in custody and deny him bail from a court of law.

Zubair claims himself to be a fact-checker and none of the cases against him (in UP) are related to his ‘vocation’. I have not gone through his ‘findings’ but if his ‘acts’ have come to such a level that he has been booked for other offenses, his primary ‘occupation’ is also a matter of investigation.

But here, the purpose of registering criminal cases against Zubair seems dubious. It is more like to teach him a lesson for standing up against a particular ideology. Such retributive actions only reflect the ‘anxiety’ of the Uttar Pradesh government to prove its muscle power in silencing the critics.

As told to Rajat Rai