Editor's Note: We had earlier reported that the account @balajikijaiin was deleted following the arrest of Mohammed Zubair. However, the account was revived again later. The story has been updated to reflect these developments.
The Delhi police arrested Alt News co-founded Mohammed Zubair for allegedly 'hurting religious sentiments' based on a complaint by an anonymous Twitter handle. Just a day after a Delhi court remanded Zubair to four days of police custody, the handle @balajikijaiin, which went by the name Hanuman Bhakt, disappeared. As reports started questioning the mysterious Twitter account, it became active once again.The account, with a profile image of the Hindu deity Hanuman, had raised suspicions of being a sock-puppet account as it had only one tweet until Monday. The account objected to a tweet posted by Zubair in 2018, asking Delhi Police to take action against him.
The account was also not following any other accounts until Monday night. (Click here to see an archived version of the account)
The Twitter handle was created on October 19, 2021, and has been dormant until June 19, 2022, when it quote-tweeted Zubair's tweet tagging Delhi Police.
The account @balajikijaiin, which stated its location as Rajasthan, took offense to a 2018 tweet by Zubair where he had tweeted a photo of a signboard that had been changed from 'Honeymoon Hotel' to 'Hanuman Hotel'."Linking our God Haunman ji with honeymoon is a direct insult of Hindus because he is brahmchari. Kindly take action against this guy", Hanuman Bhakt @balajikijaiin had tweeted on June 19. The tweet barely got any interaction initially.
The image is actually a still from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 1983 romantic comedy film - 'Kissi Se Na Kehna' starring Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval and Uttpal Dutt.
BOOM was able to access a copy of the FIR registered against Zubair under the IFSO Special Cell unit of the Delhi Police. According to the FIR dated June 20, 2022, a sub inspector Arun Kumar noticed a tweet posted by the Twitter handle - Hanuman Bhakt @balajikijaiin which had asked Delhi Police to take action against Zubair for a "highly provocative" tweet. Based on this tweet, the Delhi police filed a written complaint on June 20 and subsequently an FIR on the same day alleging that, "the picture used by Zubair are against a particular religious community, highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people..."
Following the arrest, the account @balajikijaiin had become more active asking people to follow it. It has also gotten more followers mainly right-wing Twitter users celebrating Mohammed Zubair's arrest. On Tuesday, it had grown from 2 to over 1500 followers.
The account also quote-tweeted a 2015 tweet of Alt News' other co-founder Pratik Sinha asking the Delhi Police to take action.
The account also started following several left-liberal journalists, news outlets, politicians and Twitter accounts and liked their tweets, presumably in an attempt to mislead people about its political leaning.
While analyzing the @balajikijaiin account we also found that it had 'Liked' a tweet by Signpost India - a digital advertising and marketing agency. The account later 'unliked' the tweet removing the Like from its account.
Signpost is the agency that had been in the news for handling social media for the Maharashtra Election Commission and the Ministry of Steel.
On Tuesday, the national spokesperson for Trinamool Congress, Saket Gokhale tweeted a thread drawing a link between the account @balajikijaiin and Devang Dave through Signpost India.
Gokhale tweeted that Signpost India's office address listed on its website '202, Pressman House, 70, Nehru Road, Vile Parle East, Mumbai' is the same as that of Social Central Media Solutions LLP, a firm founded by Dave.
Furthermore, the same address is also listed on the Facebook page - The Fearless Indian - created by Dave, in Facebook's Ad Library.
Earlier, in 2020, Gokhale had alleged that the Election Commission of India "hired" the IT cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to manage their social media in Maharashtra ahead of the 2019 assembly elections.
While BOOM has not been able to independently verify whether this now-deleted account has anything to do with Dave, the former in-charge of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) responded to Gokhale's tweets with sarcasm. He tagged the handles of the Ministry of Electronics & IT and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to "BAN @AltNews for spreading Fake News time and again".
Zubair's 2018 tweet, the one for which he has been arrested, was a joke on the confusion between the words Honeymoon and Hanuman - from a 1983 film. While representing in the court on Tuesday, advocate Vrinda Grover had raised questions about the legitimacy of the Twitter account.
"If an anonymous Twitter handle chose to create mischief in the country, those reasons should be investigated I think. Abuse of legal process is writ large over here," she argued. To this, the public prosecutor argued that the Twitter user was a "mere informer" and the complaint against Zubair cannot be called an anonymous one. "He is not an anonymous complainant. His details are here. Without details, no one can get a Twitter account," the public prosecutor contended.
The details, so far, about the mysterious Twitter account with no real photo or name are just that.
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