Saturday, August 13, 2022

Strive for truth, struggle for freedom, pursue justice

Controversial comments made against Prophet Mohammad by the BJP national spokeswoman Nupur Sharma leading to national and international uproar resulting to her suspension continues to have ripple effects. The most striking one since then is the arrest of well-known fact checker and the co-founder of ALT News, Mohd Zubair on the 27th June, 2022 by Delhi police on charges of promoting enmity on religious grounds and deliberately hurting religious feelings, through a tweet which is a non-bailable offence.
A few days ago, a case was registered against Zubair following a complaint from a Twitter handler over a tweet posted in 2018 allegedly had a “questionable linkage with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion”, the police said. Zubair was produced before the court where police sought remand for his custodial interrogation, saying it was required “to unravel the conspiracy.” The court granted four days of police custody for Zubair. The reasons given by the police for four days custody was to secure his electronic devices in Bengaluru. However, the police in their search wants to get hold of “dubious financial transaction.” The case registered against him is about four years old. Zubair has been booked under sections 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion and religious beliefs) and 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).
Adding further, the police officer said “The tweet was being retweeted and it appeared … social media entities indulging in insult mongering, thereby leading to a possible ramification of on communal harmony … The tweet containing picture and words against a particular religious community is highly provocative.” While on the other, Alt news co-founder Prateek Sinha said “no notice was given before Zubair’s arrest, which is mandatory for the sections which he has been booked under. No FIR cop has been given to us despite repeated requests”.
The ways with which Mohd Zubair was arrested and the charges on which he has been booked raise a number of questions. A question that looms at large in the minds of many is: why was he arrested? He has been booked for one case and arrested for some other. Delhi police keep giving a number of reasons. At last, they say that for the 2018 tweet. Therefore, the reasons and facts for his are yet to be established and ascertained.
How come, all of a sudden, the name and arrest of Mohd Zubair, known for his professionalism surfaced that has shaken the journalists’ community because of the fact that he is a person of integrity who stood for freedom and strived for truth. As a professional journalist and a fact-checker he is known for his objectivity in disseminating news and information cutting across religion, community, language, region and many others within as well as outside the country. And yet, Mohammad Zubair has been detained. Why and for what?
The background to his arrest could perhaps be that a few months ago Mohd Zubair was the first one to disclose everything to the nation and the world at large what Nupur Sharma said about Prophet Mohammed during a news channel debate on Gyanvapi mosque. Over and above, Zubair in recent times has been exposing the flaws and failures of the current ruling BJP dispensation on a number of issues that may have aroused ire. Every day we keep hearing or witnessing a test case and what happened to Mohammad Zubair is something normal but at another level which is horrendous and devastating.
The arrest of Zubair send a clear message along with other message passed on those who believe in the freedom of expression and strive for truth. Mohammad Zubair strives by taking the truth to another level vis-à-vis post-truth. Zubair was one of the first persons to tweet about Nupur Sharma’s controversial remark about Prophet Mohamad. In a toxic political climate that we are in where fake news and false narratives and yet there are some who strive and push for truth to post-truth which is increasingly becoming an impossible possibility.
Zubair busts the dubious instances with clarity, objectivity, precision and honesty. By exposing those who abuse their power and authority, trample and silence there are journalists and citizens who strive for truth by taking to post-truth levels. Mohammad Zubair is certainly one among them. The irony that we face is the political leaders talk about freedom of expression and rule of law when they tour oversea vociferously. The moment they set their foot on Indian soil behave and act the opposite ways, which is schizophrenic, double talk and double act. Everyday we come across new formats of heinous and dastardly crimes inflicted against individuals and communities. It makes the concerned citizens to wonder where all these are going to take us and what kind of society we want to leave for the present and the future generations. The idea of India is shifting to another level not for better but for worse which diametrically opposed to the vision enshrined in the Preamble of India’s Constitution – freedom of expression, liberty, democracy and rule of law.
It is imperative that we need to put back the derailed democracy onto the rails. It is the duty of every citizen to strive for truth that leads to freedom and justice. Truth is like a pendulum that swings between freedom and justice, as they are cardinal ethical principles that ought to be nurtured and ushered. We are in dire straits where reporting hates becomes a crime, while uttering hates is considered as prime. We live in such a context where “uttering hate speech will get you bail, while reporting will take you to jail.
Dr. I. John Mohan Razu,
Professor of Social Ethics

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