Booked Under Similar Charges, Zubair in Jail But Police Awaits Nupur Sharma

A month on, Nupur Sharma is yet to make an appearance before the police.

4 min read

On 26 May this year, former spokesperson of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nupur Sharma, made derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad on Times Now – once, India's most viewed English news channel.

The next morning, Alt News journalist Mohammed Zubair took to Twitter to share a clip of her appearance on the channel, and captioned it saying, "Prime Time debates in India have become a platform to encourage hate mongers to speak ill about other religions."

A month on, Nupur Sharma is yet to make an appearance before the police.

The controversy catalysed days-long protests and a stream of international censure – and at least two people died amidst the disquiet.

The BJP, after witnessing approximately 10 days of unrest, expelled Sharma from the party and distanced themselves from her remarks.

It is now a month later, and Zubair is currently locked up in the Dwarka Cyber cell division in Delhi, while Sharma is yet to make an appearance before the police. In yet another fallout, a tailor was brutally murdered in Udaipur. The incident has seen unequivocal criticism and call for the "strictest action" against the perpetrators, across party lines. Two people have been arrested so far.


'Outraging Religious Feelings': The Cases Against Sharma & Zubair

The former BJP member had disparaged Prophet Muhammad on live television, expressing views that The Quint believes should not be repeated in this article.

After Zubair flagged Sharma's derogatory comments on social media, the Mumbai Police registered an FIR under sections 295A (outraging religious feelings of any class), 153A (promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), and 505B (inducing to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The case was lodged on 28 May, after a complaint by Irfan Sheikh, who is the joint secretary of Raza Academy, an organisation of Indian Sunni Muslims.

This was not the only FIR registered against Sharma. Besides a battery of cases in Maharashtra, an FIR was also lodged against the leader at the East Midnapore’s Contai police station in West Bengal earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the FIR behind Zubair's arrest on Monday, 27 June, was registered just eight days prior, and pertained to a tweet posted by the journalist four years ago.

The case against the fact-checker came on the basis of a Twitter post by an anonymous user, with the handle @balajikijaiin.

Booked under IPC sections 153 and 295A, the fact-checker's tweet was described as "more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people which can be detrimental for maintenance of public tranquillity in the society."

But what did the tweet say?

Posted on 24 March 2018, the post attached a screenshot from the 1983 comedy film Kissi Se Na Kehna, showing a signboard of a hotel changed from 'Honeymoon Hotel' to 'Hanuman Hotel.'

"Before 2014 : Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014 : Hanuman Hotel. #SanskaariHotel," Zubair wrote with the image.

As Sharma Skips Police Summons, Zubair Called in By Special Cell

In the backdrop of Sharma skipping a series of summons by the Kolkata and Mumbai Police, the Delhi Police special cell on Monday called in Zubair for a probe in a different case.

The fact-checker's colleague, Pratik Sinha, took to social media and indicated that "Zubair was called today by special cell, Delhi for investigation in a 2020 case for which he already had a protection against arrest from High Court."

Later at night, he was produced before the duty magistrate in Burari in a haste, where he was remanded to one-day police custody. Half hour visitation was allowed for his lawyer.

At the time of his arrest, no notice was provided, a measure that is mandatory under the sections invoked against him, stated Sinha.

On Monday night, he also tweeted:

A month on, Nupur Sharma is yet to make an appearance before the police.

Other Prominent Hate Speech Cases & What Unfolded

One of the most prominent and blatant incidents of hate speech in recent memory is the three-day conclave organised in the city of Haridwar between 17 and 19 December 2021.

The conclave, organised by the controversial Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, had become the centre of national news after multiple calls to kill minorities and attack their religious spaces were made during it.

A part of the event was live-streamed on social media, and videos of some of the speeches also went viral.

Even though, the Uttarakhand Police filed a case against speakers four days after the event, Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi aka Wasim Rizvi was not arrested until 13 January. Yati Narsinghanand, who has multiple cases of hate speech registered against him, meanwhile, was arrested a month after the event.

Currently, both the accused are out on bail.

While the Dharam Sansad saw (arguably delayed) action, many hate speech instances have prompted no legal repercussions.

Before the northeast Delhi riots in 2020, BJP leader Kapil Mishra had taken to Twitter to share a video of a rally in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), where he and others could be seen shouting “Goli maaron saalon ko, desh ke gaddaron ko (Shoot them, the anti-nationals)."

The BJP's Anurag Thakur was also heard making this slogan during an election rally in Delhi's Rithala. No FIR was registered against the leaders.

In June 2021, Karni Sena chief Suraj Pal Amu was captured addressing a crowd of people and saying "“Muslim brothers? What brothers? These (slur) are butchers…they say Section 144 is in place, arre impose whatever orders you want, who is ready to face cases? Raise your hands…every Hindu has the ability to enter your home.”

No FIR was filed in the case, but Amu was named Haryana BJP spokesperson just days later.

Other instances of hate speech, made by members of the ruling party, that transpired no police case, let alone arrest, can be found here.

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