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regular-article-logo Monday, 17 June 2024

FIR against fact-checker Mohammed Zubair for uploading clip showing child being slapped in UP school

Lodging of FIR raises several questions about the way a well-meaning law is being selectively invoked with the suspected motive of intimidating information gatherers and verifiers who are filling a yawning vacuum

Piyush Srivastava, K.M. Rakesh Bangalore, Lucknow Published 29.08.23, 04:38 AM
Mohammed Zubair.

Mohammed Zubair. File picture

Uttar Pradesh police have filed an FIR against fact-checker Mohammed Zubair for sharing the video of a headmistress ordering children to slap a Muslim child in her school, accusing the AltNews journalist of revealing the boy’s identity.

The lodging of the FIR raises several questions about the way a well-meaning law is being selectively invoked with the suspected motive of intimidating information gatherers and verifiers who are filling a yawning vacuum. Several of the legacy media outlets have been seeking to play down initially such gut-wrenching events that confirm the worst fears about the state of the nation.

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Both the Muzaffarnagar atrocity and the Manipur savagery on two women — events that made large sections of Indians gasp in disbelief — were taken note of because of videos on social media, not because of reporting by the so-called mainstream media.

The video of Tripta Tyagi laughing and instructing the children to hit the sobbing boy harder — after declaring that Muslim children should be beaten before being sent home for not doing their work well — had gone viral on Friday, with thousands sharing it to expose the hatred and demand action against the teacher.

According to the FIR, Zubair has been booked under Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, which states: “No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim or witness of a crime.”

Any person flouting the provisions of the act is punishable with imprisonment up to six months or a fine up to Rs 2 lakh or both.

Zubair, who is based in Bangalore, told The Telegraph that he had learned about the FIR from social media and had got in touch with his lawyer.

“I just saw the FIR that was shared on Twitter and I see only my name mentioned in that. Lots of people had shared it (the video of the boy being slapped) before me and after me, but none of their names are there (in the FIR). I deleted the video soon after (chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) Priyank Kanoongo tweeted saying not to disclose the identity of the boy. In spite of that, they have filed an FIR against me,” Zubair said.

Kanoongo had on Friday evening, by when the video was viral, asked people not to share it to protect the identity of the child, and Zubair had tweeted soon after that he had deleted the video because the NCPCR wanted people to do so.

Subsequently, several Twitter users have complained that their tweets commenting on the incident without revealing the child’s identity were being withheld by Twitter “in response to a legal demand” from the government.

The FIR against Zubair was filed on a complaint by Vishnudatt, a resident of the village in Muzaffarnagar where the school is located. In the complaint submitted to the local police station on Monday, Vishnudatt said: “... a viral video has come to my knowledge in which the identity of the victim child was revealed by the journalist of AltNews, Mohammed Zubair, which is a violation of child’s rights under the Juvenile Justice Act. I request you to kindly take legal action….” The FIR gives Zubair’s place of residence as Muzaffarnagar.

Several calls by this newspaper to the mobile phone number of Vishnudatt went unanswered.

Circle officer Ravi Shankar Mishra said Vishnudatt “has stated that he got information that the identity of the child was revealed”.

“We don’t know much about the complainant except that he belongs to the same village,” Mishra said.

Asked about the future course of action, Mishra said: “We have registered the FIR and the rest is a subject of investigation. Maybe we will call him here or send police to bring him here, but that would be decided only when the probe is complete.”

Delhi police had arrested Zubair in June 2022 on charges of hurting Hindu sentiments for a tweet from 2018 in which he had shared a screenshot from an old Hindi film. Cases were registered against him in several districts of Uttar Pradesh. The Supreme Court had clubbed all the cases, shifted them to Delhi, and granted him bail in July 2022.

The headmistress on Saturday said she had got other children to beat the Class I student because he was not learning the five times table. She said the video was edited to focus on the word “Mohammedan” but did not deny saying that Muslim children should be beaten.

Tyagi has been booked under IPC sections 323 and 504 for voluntarily causing hurt and intentionally insulting someone with ulterior motives.

Rajiv Kumar, chairman of the district child welfare committee, told reporters the child’s parents had withdrawn him from the school. “He will continue his education in another school,” Kumar said.

The child’s father said: “Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind is giving us assistance for his education. He will study in a school in a neighbouring village.”

A video surfaced on social media on Monday afternoon in which an old man, identified as the grandfather of the child, is seen wiping his tears as he says: “I am hurt by the way my grandson was beaten. Right action was not taken against the guilty....”

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