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ECI tags fake news peddler and hate monger Mohammed Zubair informing him about action taken against Latha: Questions that emerge and the problems with it

The EC tagging Mohammed Zubair in its tweet informing about action initiated against Ms Latha seeks to legitimise the Alt News cofounder's sinister online conduct, which involves painting a target behind assertive Hindu women who don't take insults to their faith lying down, besides peddling fakes news and selectively 'fact-checking' incidents that reinforce his agenda.  

The Election Commission of India recently tagged Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair in a tweet informing him about its action against BJP candidate Madhavi Latha over alleged violations of electoral regulations. 

“A case has been filed against Smt. Madhavi Latha, Contesting candidate at Malakpet Police Station under 171C, 186, and 505(1)(c) of the IPC, along with section 132 of the RP Act for violating electoral regulations,” the official X account of the District Election Officer of Hyderabad tweeted on 13 May 2024, tagging Mohammed Zubair, the official X accounts of Telangana CEO, and the ECI.

District Election Officer of Hyderabad’s tweet

The action was initiated after a video of the BJP candidate from Hyderabad, Madhavi Latha, interacting with voters at a polling station had gone viral on the internet. In the video, Ms Latha could be seen talking with a few burqa-clad women at the polling station, who subsequently share what appears like their identity card with the firebrand BJP leader. As per reports, Ms Latha was seeking to verify whether the faces of the women voters tallied the images on their Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC)—a necessary step to prevent the casting of proxy votes. 

Several anti-BJP social media users, including Mohammed Zubair, who is infamous for sharing incomplete videos to further his partisan agenda, targeted Ms Latha and tagged ECI on X, seeking action against her.

“This is not a ‘visit’. This is bullying of the voters by the BJP candidate. Who gave her the authority? Is the Election Commission completely taken over by the BJP?” Zubair tweeted. 

Zubair targeted Ms Latha over her visit to a polling booth

Subsequently, the EC took cognisance of the viral video and initiated action against Ms Latha, which it informed on X with the aforementioned tweet. 

While it is arguable whether the charges against Ms Latha were warranted or not, the Election Commission of India tagging a known hatemonger and fake news peddler, Mohammed Zubair, raises questions about the constitutional body and its working. 

The natural question that comes to one’s mind is whether is the EC reporting to Zubair to inform him about the action taken by it. Is Zubair holding any constitutional position in the Commission to warrant a personal mention in its tweet? If not, why was Zubair mentioned in the tweet? Does the EC inform Zubair about all the decisions it takes? If one assumes that the EC tagged Zubair only because he had expressed disapproval over the viral video of Ms Latha at a polling station, did the constitutional body tag everyone on social media who objected to Ms Latha’s presence at the polling booth? 

Dog-whistling against assertive Hindu women, selective fact-checking, fake news, and more: The dangerous antecedents of Mohammed Zubair

However, more gravely, the Election Commission’s preferential treatment of Mohammed Zubair legitimises his sinister online conduct, which involves painting a target behind assertive Hindu women who don’t take insults to their faith lying down and selectively ‘fact-checking’ incidents that reinforce his political bias.  

Mohammed Zubair shot to fame in 2022 when thousands of Islamists came out on the streets in different parts of the country baying for the blood of Nupur Sharma, former BJP spokesperson, who found herself at the centre of a raging storm after Mohammed Zubair shared an incomplete video of her, accusing her of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. 

Sharma was part of a debate panel on Times Now, discussing the finding of Shivling in the Gyanvapi complex and the subsequent mockery of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses that followed in the wake of the discovery. Islamists had claimed that the Shivling discovered inside the wuzukhana of the Gyanvapi disputed structure was not a Shivling but a fountain. Across social media platforms, detractors had repeated ad nauseam that the Shivling found inside the Gyanvapi premises was a fountain and not an idol of a Hindu God.

In response to the contempt and scorn poured over Hindu Gods and Goddesses, which was evident even during the Times Now debate where some of the fellow panellists referred to the Shivling as a fountain, BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma asked them to refrain from insulting Hindu Gods and cited Islamic scriptures and Holy Quran for substantiating her remarks on Prophet Muhammad and Islam. Zubair subsequently shared a partial video of the debate, touching off ‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ violence all over the country. 

Ironically, Zubair, who targeted Nupur Sharma over alleged ‘blasphemy’ against Prophet Muhammad, was arrested after his disparaging posts mocking Hindu Gods and Goddesses had gone viral on the internet, prompting him to deactivate his troll Facebook account—Unofficial Sususwamy. 

Besides peddling propaganda and instigating Islamists, Zubair is also infamous for peddling fake news. There are countless incidents when Zubair was caught lying, an indicative list of which can be read here. His portal, Alt News, has also attracted searing criticism for its prejudice and running Islamist propaganda in the name of ‘fact-checking’. 

Yet, the Election Commission found no qualms in tagging a personality that thrives on manipulating facts to suit his bigoted narratives, targeting assertive Hindus with motivated allegations of ‘blasphemy’, and sharing fake news without an iota of shame and embarrassment. Surely, the Election Commission, which undertakes the herculean effort of conducting free and fair elections in an incredibly vast and diverse country like India, could do better than seeking validity for its actions from extra-constitutional persons, especially from hate-mongers and fake news peddlers pretending to be anxious about India’s democratic ethos and norms. 

Update: After the OpIndia report, the X handle of District Election Officer of Hyderabad deleted the tweet where they had tagged fake news peddler and hate monger Mohammad Zubair as if he was an office holder, informing about the case filed against Madhavi Latha. After deleting the tweet in question, the ECI then tweeted the content again without tagging Mohammad Zubair.

However, another disturbing trend emerged. The ECI, Hyderabad handle started ‘hiding’ tweets in response to this one questioning them about the previous deleted tweet where they had tagged Mohammad Zubair. Netizens were questioning the ECI about the motive of tagging the individual.

What was also troubling is that one of the responses hidden by the ECI handle, Hyderabad was one questioning whether the ECI would take action against AIMIM goons threatening and abusing Madhavi Latha.

This raises serious questions on the transparency with which the District Election Officer of Hyderabad is supposed to function.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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