An Indian Muslim journalist has been charged by police for revealing the name of the seven year old boy who was slapped repeatedly by fellow students at the instruction of his teacher because he was Muslim.
An FIR (First Information Report) has been registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police against Mohammad Zubair, who is the editor of Alt News, a fact-checking website.
Police allege that Zubair revealed the identity of the victim, Mohammad Altamash, who goes to a school in Muzaffarnagar which has been temporarily shut down by the authorities after a video of the abuse went viral.
The video depicted Trapta Tyagi, a Hindu school teacher, subjecting the seven-year-old Muslim student to humiliating treatment within the classroom. The teacher’s actions involved making derogatory comments about Islam and instructing the student’s peers to physically hit him, while also urging them to use more force.
The recording captures Tyagi’s voice urging, “Why don’t you exert more force? Whose turn is it?”
But while the teacher has not been arrested, Zubair has been charged under Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act based on a complaint lodged by an individual named Vishnudutt.
This section of the law considers it an offence to reveal the identity of a child who is either a victim or a witness to a crime. Those found culpable could face a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs 200,000.
The FIR against Zubair says that he disclosed the identity of the young boy (as had many others) by posting a video of the incident on social media platforms.
Speaking to the Scroll media outlet on Monday, Zubair said that he believed he was being singled out and subjected to scrutiny. He also mentioned that he had taken down the video after Priyank Kanoongo, the chief of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, requested social media users not to share the video clip.
“I am the only one named in the FIR even though many others including media outlets posted the video,” Zubair told Scroll. “In fact there are other videos revealing the identity of the kid including the video of him hugging his classmates.”
Zubair, a notable figure in the realm of digital journalism, has gained recognition for his efforts in debunking false information and delivering accurate details to the public.
Last year he was arrested by Delhi police for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity.” He has been under constant attack from Hindutva groups for busting fake news and calling out hate speech by Hindu monks.
He also broke a story about BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The issue snowballed into a major controversy with many Muslim countries expressing their displeasure over the disparaging remarks against the Prophet (pbuh).
Meanwhile, the video depicting the young boy being slapped has prompted widespread indignation, leading opposition politicians to direct criticism towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for stoking the fire of anti-Muslim sentiment.
According to the boy’s father, he was subjected to humiliation and compelled to stand for several hours, as conveyed to the police.
After the incident last Thursday, the father said: “The teacher compelled the students to repeatedly assault my child. My son underwent torment for an extended period, lasting an hour or two. He’s now left fearful and traumatised.'”
Tyagi has been charged under Sections 323 (pertaining to the punishment for voluntarily causing harm) and 504 (involving intentional insult with the intent to incite a breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code.
Nevertheless, the case against her has been registered under non-cognisable charges, which means an arrest is not possible without a warrant.
The school in Uttar Pradesh where the Hindu school teacher encouraged students to slap the Muslim student has also been ordered shut until an investigation against the school authorities is completed.