Complaint Against Zubair, Notice to Wikipedia and Waves of Online Abuse: What Followed a Dropped Catch

On September 4, pacer Arshdeep Singh dropped a catch in the course of India's match against Pakistan. India eventually lost by five wickets. Here's what followed.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: A government notice to an online encyclopedia, a police complaint against a fact-checker and free-flowing online hatred have followed in the aftermath of an Indian cricketer dropping a catch in a match against Pakistan.

On Sunday, September 4, pacer Arshdeep Singh dropped a catch in the course of India’s match against Pakistan in the super four match of the Asia Cup in Dubai. India eventually lost by five wickets.

Singh soon became the focus of vicious online trolling. Thousands of Twitter accounts posted tweets seeking to link him and his Sikh background to the separatist Khalistani movement.

Information on Singh’s Wikipedia page was edited as well. According to the edit history of the cricketer’s Wikipedia page, an unregistered user replaced the words “India” with “Khalistan” at several places on the profile and his name was changed to “Major Arshdeep Singh Bajwa”.

The changes were reversed within 15 minutes by Wikipedia editors, said reports.

Government targets Wikipedia

Curiously, the Union government slapped a notice on Wikipedia, with Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar taking to Twitter to express outrage.

“No intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation (a)n(d) deliberate efforts to incitement (a)n(d) user harm – violates our govts expectations of safe and trusted internet,” he said.

Since its inception, Wikipedia has been edited by volunteers across the world.

Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, in response to an email query from the news agency PTI said that the Meity has informed it about the vandalism on the Wikipedia page of the cricketer, and “wrongful edits were removed within minutes.”

“The Wikimedia Foundation has been made aware by the Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology of the vandalism that took place on the Wikipedia page of Indian cricketer, Arshdeep Singh.

“The Wikipedia page of the cricketer was vandalized with false claims on September 4, however, the wrongful edits were removed within minutes by Wikipedia’s volunteer community. Right now, the article on English Wikipedia is semi-protected (which allows edits by only trusted users) to restrict further vandalism on the page,” the foundation said.

Wikimedia also said that Wikipedia is a volunteer-led platform and Wikimedia Foundation generally does not set editorial policy on Wikipedia.

“Editorial policy is instead determined by the global volunteers who edit Wikipedia every month. Information found on Wikipedia must be sourced and cited from a reliable news or other secondary sources of information.

“Vandalism does occur on Wikipedia from time to time, as can occur in any open, online platform. It is a violation of the trust and good faith of our editors and readers, and runs contrary to the values on which Wikipedia is based,” the foundation said.

The majority of vandalism on Wikipedia is reverted by bots or editors within minutes, as was done in the recent case of Singh, it added.

A police complaint

Through Monday, as online trolling of Singh continued, Alt News co-founder and prolific fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, posted screenshots of accounts that had been engaging in this trolling.

While some journalists and news outlets claimed that “bots from Pakistan” were responsible for Singh’s “Khalistani” trolling, Zubair and journalist Alishan Jafri were among those who noted on Twitter that many of the accounts that had tweeted vicious abuse appeared to be Indian, were followed by other Indians – some, by functionaries of rightwing parties.


Later in the day, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa filed a police complaint against Zubair, accusing him of “spreading hate” against Singh and the Sikh community with his tweets.

In his complaint filed at the Parliament Street police station, Sirsa cited the tweet by Zubair where he had shared screenshots of tweets against Singh posted on various handles.

The BJP leader claimed that most of these tweets were from ”Pakistani accounts” and alleged that Zubair had acted at the behest of “anti-national elements”.

He demanded that an FIR be filed against him and an investigation launched to unearth the conspiracy.

“Mohammed Zubair acting in connivance with anti-national elements across the border has cleverly taken screenshots from Twitter of various Twitter handles after searching with the word- Khalistani and has then posted a tweet at 00:05 hours on September 5, 2022 combining all these tweets,” he alleged.

Sirsa alleged that Zubair was “trying to portray that such abusive and malicious tweets were posted by Indian Twitter handles, whereas the reality is that most of these Twitter accounts are Pakistani accounts”.

He claimed some were created just for the purpose of this tweet, “‘the sole intention behind which was to spread hate against a nationalist and national level player who has given his heart and soul playing for the country and also against the entire Sikh community.”

Zubair is no stranger to police complaints against him. He was arrested on June 27 on the basis of a complaint by an anonymous Twitter account for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through a screenshot of a film posted in 2018. He was in custody for 24 days until the Supreme Court granted him bail and noted that it would not stop him from tweeting.

Multiple FIRs had been lodged against Zubair in Uttar Pradesh against various tweets – two in Hathras and one each in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad and Chandauli.

The Supreme Court bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had noted that the practice of repeated charging and arresting was a “vicious cycle”.

(With PTI inputs)