India arrests Modi critic for running fact-checking website

NEW DELHI: Indian police on Monday arrested the co-founder of a top fact-checking website who has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, his aide said.

Pratik Sinha, who runs Alt-News website with Zubair, said that Mohammad Zubair, who was arrested in Delhi, was earlier called for questioning in a case.

Sinha, in a post on Twitter, said that his associate was arrested illegally and without any warning and was being nabbed by the police in Delhi.

Zubair has been one of the staunch critics of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and has frequently invoked hate speech by Hindu fringe groups on the internet.

He has faced several legal cases over the years, which his supporters dismiss as politically motivated attempts to silence a critic.

Some local media reports linked Zubair’s arrest on Monday to a recent controversy over an incendiary remark about Prophet Mohammed by a BJP spokesperson, which sparked widespread global protests and outrage from the Islamic world.

Over the past few weeks, several Hindu nationalists have drawn attention to past comments made on social media by Zubair and other Modi critics and demanded that they be prosecuted for hurting their religious sentiments.

However, most government critics see Zubair’s arrest as part of a crackdown on free-speech and rights activists that India has seen since Modi came to power in May 2014.

On Saturday, police detained activist Teesta Setalvad, who hails from Modi’s western home state of Gujarat. Setalvad is campaigning to declare Modi as a participant in the deadly communal riots that took place 20 years ago.

Protests broke out in several Indian cities on Monday with rights activists and free speech organizations demanding Setalvad’s release and his detention described as “vendetta politics”.

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