An anonymous Twitter complaint, a scene from a film, and a previously unknown case are some elements that are part of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair's arrest.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday, 27 June, on the charges of outraging religious feelings and promoting enmity between different groups.
The fact-checker has been arrested over a 2018 tweet carrying a "questionable image with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion," the police said.
Notably, the questionable image in question is taken from the scene of a Bollywood movie which has aired on TV several times.
Further, the arrest was made merely eight days after an anonymous Twitter handle raised a complaint against the four-year-old tweet.
What Was Zubair's Tweet?
Mohammed Zubair, on 24 March 2018, had tweeted a picture of the signboard of a hotel changed from 'Honeymoon Hotel' to 'Hanuman Hotel.'
"Before 2014 : Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014 : Hanuman Hotel. #SanskaariHotel," he had written.
It is pertinent to note that the image to which the objection has been raised is taken from the 1983 comedy film Kissi Se Na Kehna, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The movie has aired on TV and other streaming platforms, and presumably has due clearance from the censor board.
The movie stars Deepti Naval, Farooq Shaikh, and Utpal Dutt among others.
Zubair is not the first to use the scene from the movie as a meme.
In 2018, The Indian Express had used the same scene as its feature image for an article on memes created by fans on 'Avengers: Infinity War' crossover.
The picture has also been posted by several other users on Twitter in the past few years, but has not been deemed as the cause of 'outraging religious feelings' as in Zubair's case.
The Twitter Handle That Complained
"In the month of June, 2022, when Delhi Police was alerted by a twitter handle that Mohammad Zubair had earlier made an objectionable tweet and his followers/social media entities had amplified and created a series of debates/hate mongering in the tread, he was examined in this case and his role was found objectionable," the police has said in a statement.
The complaint against Zubair was registered by a Twitter handle '@balajikijaiin'.
The account, whose user(s) remain anonymous, calls itself 'Hanuman Bhakt.' It is based out of Rajasthan, as per its location in the bio.
The account, made in October 2021, had put out a single tweet, which appeared to be its first, on 19 June 2022, complaining that Zubair has insulted Hindus.
In response to Zubair's 2018 tweet, the user wrote, "@DelhiPolice Linking our God Hanuman ji with Honey Moon is direct insult of Hindus because he is brahmchari @DCP_CCC_Delhi kindly take action against this guy."
The account has posted two new tweets after Zubair's arrest.
One of the tweets raises a complaint against the other co-founder of Alt News, Pratik Sinha.
Retweeting a 2019 tweet of Sinha's on Ganesha, the anonymous user wrote, "What would you call it? This person openly hurting the religious freedom of Hindus. @DelhiPolice @DCP_CCC_Delhi Kindly take action."
Screenshots taken by several journalists indicated that the account had 1 follower, and followed 0 other people till around 9 pm on Monday night, after Zubair's arrest.
At the time of writing this story at 11 am on Tuesday morning, the account had 1,378 followers and had followed 48 other accounts.
The Case Against Zubair
"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. However, today at around 6.45pm we were told he has been arrested in some other FIR for which no notice was given which is mandatory under law for the Sections under which he has been arrested. Nor FIR copy is being given to us despite repeated requests," Pratik Sinha had said in a statement.
Sinha also said that no FIR copy was been given to them at the time of the arrest "despite repeated requests.”
A Delhi Police statement said, "Today, Mohammed Zubair joined investigation in Case FIR no. 194/20 PS-Special Cell. During investigation of FIR no. 194/20, Delhi Police had given status report, wherein the tweet by Mohammad Zubair was not found objectionable. Whereas, subsequent tweets after his tweet led to series of questionable and derogatory tweets."
The statement also said, "In the month of June, 2022, when Delhi Police was alerted by a twitter handle that Mohammad Zubair had earlier made an objectionable tweet and his followers/social media entities had amplified and created a series of debates/hate mongering in the tread, he was examined in this case i.e FIR no. 172/22 u/s 153A/295A IPC and his role was found objectionable."
No formal complaint had been lodged with the Delhi Police in connection with the second case. The police filed the FIR based on 20 June, taking cognizance of the 19 June tweet by '@balajikijaiin.'
Zubair had earlier been booked for calling three Hindutva leaders, including Yati Narsinghanand, "hatemongers."