Image Courtesy: Dainik Bhaskar
Journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested on Monday, along with three others at a a toll plaza in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and sedition, reported The Hindu, adding that the First Information Report (FIR) was registered in Mathura on Wednesday.
The four were arrested on Monday when they were driving down from Delhi to Hathras. The FIR lodged against them in the Mant police station charges them under section 124A (sedition) of the IPC, sections 14 and 17 of the UAPA, sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act, for promoting enmity between groups and outraging religious feelings, reported TH. Section 17 of the UAPA deals with raising funds for terrorist acts.
Kappan, is a journalist who writes for Malayalam portals, and is based in Delhi. The others were identified as Ateeq-ur-Rehman of Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed of Bahraich and Alam of Rampur. According to the news report, sub-inspector Prabal Singh has in the FIR accused the four of carrying pamphlets titled: ‘Justice for Hathras Victim’ and moving towards the district to disrupt peace as part of a “big conspiracy”.
The Uttar Pradesh Police soon after arresting Muslim journalist, 3 others near Hathras, had reportedly claimed that the four men were linked to Campus Front of India, and its parent outfit the Popular Front of India (PFI). In December 2019, the UP government had alleged PFI involvement in vandalism in the state when the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) were underway across India.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had filed a Habeas Corpus Petition in Supreme Court to produce Journalist Sidhique Kappan, who is the secretary of Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi unit, and a senior reporter. He had reportedly gone to cover the Hathras horror of the alleged gangrape, and murder of the 19-year old Dalit woman.
The president of the KUWJ state committee Thiruvananthapuram, KP Reji, had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking Kappan’s immediate release. “Our relentless efforts to contact him were in vain. The Hathras Police Station and the State Police department has not provided any information so far on taking him into custody,” The Hindu quoted Reji’s letter to the PM.
The Indian Women Press Corps and the Press Association have also condemned Siddique Kappan’arrest. It stated that even though the UP government claims that the journalist has links with some groups it “has not offered any proof in this regard.”
The UP government had banned the entry of the media in Hathras for two days, denying journalists their right to report the story from Hathras, thereby violating the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Meanwhile leading journalist groups, and unions have decried the Uttar Pradesh police’s move. They issued statements of solidarity with the arrested colleague, most of the statements were issued before the police charged the arrested journalist under the draconian UAPA.
The IWPC and Press Association demanded Kappan’s immediate release and return of his laptop and mobile phone. The women journalists have decried the UP government’s attempt to silence the media and create an atmosphere of fear by arresting the journalist.
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has also urged that Siddique Kappan, secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi Unit, be released.
The DUJ added that journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested from Delhi by UP police on August 18, 2020 for a tweet, is still in jail, and have deplored “the tendency to arrest journalists on dubious grounds.” According to the DUJ “arrests of journalists for their views and reportage is a serious infringement of the freedom of the press. We demand the immediate release of all journalists arrested during the lockdown on various pretexts ranging from a tweet to a video report.”
The Press Club of India (PCI) also issued a statement against Siddique Kappan’s arrest by UP Police, and demanded that he “be released without delay.” The PCI stated that it was their apprehension that the Adityanath government, “in line with its clearly stated conspiracy theory as an explanation for the tragic Hathras incident, will employ diversionary tactics to take the focus away from the many suspicious, possibly criminal, actions of its police and administration and the virtual silence of the political leadership on the Hathras tragedy.”
The PCI added that there should also be an impartial probe into the allegations of the UP government, and of the police tapping cell phone conversations of journalists covering the gruesome Hathras incident. “This appears to be a gross violation of the privacy laws, direct interference with the professional work of journalists, and a blatant infringement of Article 19 of the Constitution as regards free speech” stated PCI.
The arrest of the Kerala journalist is a pointer that the regime in UP is a further illustration of the ham handed methods used to stop the media from doing its work, they said adding that “inhibiting the media is evidently directed toward stopping facts from being known in the public sphere.”
The PCI had also stated that they were worried that the “UP Police may not fight shy of using anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist.” The PCI’s prediction was proven right within hours.