The police claimed that it is a prima facie case of suicide but people close to him don’t buy the theory
NEW DELHI – 48-year-old Zubair Ahmed, a prominent journalist of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was found dead with a rope around his neck at a school on Thursday night. The police claimed that it is a prima facie case of suicide but people close to him don’t buy the theory.
Ahmed’s funeral rites were performed on Friday.
In April, 2020, Ahmed was arrested for criticising the Andaman administration over its policy with regard to Covid. He was later released on bail.
A senior police official told The Indian Express that the investigation into the case is underway. “We recovered the body, with a rope around the neck, on Thursday night inside the Crescent Public School in Wimberlygunj, South Andaman. After the post-mortem, the body was handed over to family members. Prima facie it seems like a suicide, but investigation is on,” said the official.
Talking about his death, Najeeb Siddiqui, a cousin of Ahmed, said that on Thursday, he spent time with his wife and three children and left home. When he did not return late in the evening, they started searching for him and found his body with a rope around his neck at the Crescent Public School in South Andaman. Forensic personnel found two pen drives from his pockets.
According to Siddiqui, Ahmed had been undergoing treatment for depression for the last ten years but it could not be the reason behind his death.
“Last Sunday, when I met him he was fine. It was not his illness. But I think he was depressed that he cannot whole heartedly practice full time journalism. He was trying to bring out his own newspaper and even named it ‘Sunday Islander’. He spoke with me and others about the project and we told him we will support it. But somehow the project could not be done. This may be the cause, we do not know. We do not believe that because of his illness he committed suicide,” Siddiqui was quoted by Indian Express as saying.
Ahmed was booked under sections 51 (punishment for obstruction) and 54 (punishment for false warning) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as well as sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease) and 505(1)(b) (causing fear or alarm to the public) of the IPC when he asked that why people were put under the quarantine for talking to covid patients over the phone. In 2021, the Kolkata High court quashed the case against him.
After getting bail, Ahmed continued writing critically of the government and the administration. He was also quite active on social media till 6 July. He used to raise human rights issues and even tweeted in support of arrested fact-checker Mohammed Zubair.
Denis Giles, editor of The Andaman Chronicle and a friend of Ahmed, said he does not believe that Ahmed committed suicide due to depression and there must be other reason.
“Recently, he was very active on Twitter highlighting wrongdoings of the administration. There must be some other reason (for his death),” said Giles.
MP Kuldeep Rai Sharma paid condolences calling him “a fearless journalist who had the courage to call a spade a spade”.
“Zubair Ahmed was a well-read person and had an excellent command over English. Because of his knowledge, objective thinking and brilliant writing power he was well known among national as well as international media fraternity,” said Rai.