'Vendetta': UP Police Files FIR Against Alt News Journalist for Tweet on Muslim Boy Slapped

Mohammed Zubair told The Wire that an FIR had been lodged against him even though he had later deleted the video and notified his followers on social media site X (formerly Twitter).

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh police have filed an FIR against Mohammed Zubair, a fact-checker and journalist with Alt News, for sharing the video of a Muslim boy in Muzaffarnagar who was slapped by his classmates on the directions of their school teacher recently. Zubair told The Wire that an FIR had been lodged against him even though he had later deleted the video and notified his followers on social media site X (formerly Twitter).

The FIR accuses Zubair of revealing the identity of the boy through the act of sharing the video of the incident online. The FIR was lodged at the Mansoorpur police station in the western UP district in the early hours of August 28 on the complaint of one Vishnudutt, a resident of the village where the incident took place.

Zubair, who is often on the radar of right-wing forces as well as BJP-ruled state governments, was charged under Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which is punishable by imprisonment up to six months.

On August 25, Zubair had put out a tweet of the boy’s father narrating that he had decided to not file a police complaint against the teacher for making other students hit his son. Zubair’s tweet not only disclosed the identity of the man but also of his minor son. However, hours later Zubair deleted the video after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had asked people not to share the video and warned them that revealing the identity of the boy was an offence.

Zubair was amazed that even though the video was widely shared by thousands of other people, including journalists and politicians, he was singled out by the police for action, despite deleting his tweet.

“I personally feel it is vendetta politics. Soon after the NCPCR asked people to not share the video, I deleted the video and pointed it out on my timeline. But I was singled out. Several other TV channels and anchors played the video before and after I did,” Zubair told The Wire.

The Station House Officer of Mansoorpur did not respond to phone calls. Zubair says the police are yet to approach him. He is taking legal advice in the matter.

Meanwhile, several rights activists have questioned why the teacher in question – Tripta Tyagi – has only been charged with non-cognisable offences under the Indian Penal Code.

In the viral video which the government authorities have now had removed from social media, Tyagi, who runs the Neha Public School at her home, can be seen exhorting other students to assault a Muslim child who is seen crying while different students come forward  to slap him. At one point in the video, the teacher scolded a student for not hitting him hard enough. “I have declared that all those Muslim children should be…(inaudible),” she can be heard saying in the 40-second-long video.

As The Wire has reported, there has been pressure on the young boy’s family to “compromise” and not take charges against the teacher forward. Tyagi has claimed that she did nothing wrong and there was nothing communal about her actions.

Zubair was arrested and put in jail for three weeks in June-July 2022, and multiple cases filed against him for a tweet in which he had shared a screenshot from an old Bollywood film. He was released on the Supreme Court’s orders.