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Mohammed Zubair

HRD, Co-founder
Alt News

Mohammed Zubair is a human rights defender and the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News aimed at combatting fake news and misinformation. Zubair has spoken out against hate speech and divisive propaganda especially targetting minority communities. In June 2022, he was instrumental in exposing the hate speech by former ruling party spokesperson Nupur Sharma which resulted in public and international outcry. The BJP has since sought to distance itself from the said officials, especially in response to international condemnation. Zubair has been targeted in the past due to this work. The recent treatment of Zubair based on a tweet published four years ago, is clearly punishment for his role in exposing senior members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Human rights defenders in India face a diverse range of attacks and harassment from state and non-state actors alike, including killing, physical assault, arbitrary detention, threats and judicial harassment. Police officials are often the perpetrators of violence against HRDs, which is usually carried out with impunity. Armed groups and private companies also target HRDs for work related to economic development projects and their impact on the local communities or the environment. HRDs are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by radical nationalists.

HRDs making use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act are liable to be killed, assaulted or harassed for exercising their fundamental right to demand and receive information from public authorities. Women HRDs are targeted with gender-specific threats – death, gang rape or acid attacks – both online and offline. They are particularly vulnerable in regions with a heavy presence of the military and armed groups. In the Red Corridor, a region in East India experiencing Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, HRDs, including lawyers, researchers and journalists face acts of intimidation and persecution and work under tremendous pressure from authorities, rebels, and vigilante groups. People defending the rights of marginalised communities such as the Adivasi and the Dalit can encounter death threats, destruction of their properties, fabricated charges, physical attacks, as well as caste-based discrimination by state and non-state actors alike.