Today, October 5, Tuesday, journalist Siddique Kappan has completed 1 year in jail. He was arrested along with three others by the Uttar Pradesh police when they were on their way to Hathras to cover the horrific gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl. Siddique Kappan never reached the spot from where he had intended to write his news reports.
To mark the “black day”, and reiterate their demand for justice for a colleague who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to do his job, various journalist unions held a peaceful demonstration outside the Press Club of India (PCI), Delhi. Those gathered included members of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), PCI and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ). PCI president, senior journalist Umakant Lakhera said, “We are fighting for free media. There should be no curb on the media if someone is going on a spot to report,” adding, “Spot and investigative reporting is dying day by day. We are appealing to the highest judiciary of the country to release Kappan and to quash the charges against him.”
Glimpses from Black Day Protest meeting in support of Siddique Kappan by Press Club of India, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists at the Press Club today pic.twitter.com/SMxulqU2tk
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) October 5, 2021
1 year of jail! #Siddiquekappan is in jail for just thinking to cover Hatras case. He didn’t even reach Hatras while on his way he was arrested& later booked with Sedition and UAPA.
— Samriddhi K Sakunia (@Samriddhi0809) October 5, 2021
On October 5, 2020, Kappan and three others were arrested by the Mathura police in Uttar Pradesh on the apprehension that they may be “causing a breach of peace”, however stringent charges of sedition etc were added later. The Uttar Pradesh Police have filed a 5,000-page chargesheet against him and 3 others who were arrested along with him, and have accused them of receiving Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state. Kappan, is also the secretary of Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi unit (KUWJ), and soon after his arrest, the KUWJ issued a statement expressing that they could not get in touch with Siddique and that neither the Hathras Police Station nor the State Police department could provide any information on taking him into custody.
The Uttar Pradesh government submitted in its affidavit that they found “suspicious literature, one that could have an adverse impact on peace,” from their electronic devices. Police have also claimed that the four including Kappan were linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its student body Campus Front of India and that they were going to Hathras “under the garb of journalism with a very determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation.”
The DUJ general secretary Sujata Madhok said at the protest, “We have gathered here today because it has been one year since the jailing of Kappan and others who were accompanying him and were not journalists…. The judiciary must take action. You cannot indefinitely jail people.”
— অনির Onir اونیر ओनिर he/him (@IamOnir) October 5, 2021
In April this year, the police filed a chargesheet against Kappan listing more than 50 witnesses to support the police charges. In this 5,000-page chargesheet, the UP police alleged that Kappan and others received funds totalling almost Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state. The police claimed that they were all PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders were going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very “determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation.”