Kerala based journalist, Siddique Kappan along with three others were arrested on their way to Hathras by the UP Police on Monday. They have been booked under sedition among other serious charges. The UP Police had stopped them at a toll after receiving information that some suspicious people were on their way to Hathras from Delhi.
The other three persons identified are Atiq-ur-Rehman, Masood Ahmed, and Alam. Their lawyer Ansar Indori has informed that Alam was the driver of the car while the other two are research scholars. An FIR has been lodged against them at the Mant Police Station charging them under Section 124 (A) of the IPC- Sedition, Sections 14 and 17 of the UAPA, and Sections 65, 72, and 76 of the Information Technology Act. Section 17 of UAPA deals with raising funds for terrorist acts. The FIR claims that these four men were involved in promoting enmity between groups and outraging religious feelings.
The FIR has claimed that the four men were carrying ‘inciteful literature’ which included pamphlets which said, “Justice for Hathras victim” and “Am I not India’s daughter?”. The police have also named them along with other unidentified people in the crime of creation of a website named ‘justiceforhathras’ which the Police claims was created to gather foreign funds to instigate caste riots. The UP Police has recovered six mobile phones and one laptop from the four accused. Interestingly the website which has been touted as the centre of the conspiracy to trigger caste riots has plagiarized content from a Black Lives Matter protest website in the US. There are evident references of NYPD in the website and other terms like ‘white supremacists’, ‘blacks’, ‘Uber’, which indicate that the UP police’s claim is rather dubious.
The UP Police has also claimed that the four persons arrested have links with People’s Front of India (PFI). The state government had earlier accused the outfit of inciting violence during Anti-CAA protests in UP. PFI has called these allegations ‘baseless and ridiculous’ and called it an attempt by the UP government to divert the attention from its failure to handle the Hathras rape case.
After the journalist’s arrest, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had written letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath demanding earliest release of Siddique Kappan who is also the secretary of KUWJ’s Delhi unit. The Union also mentioned that the journalist is an experienced journalist and a regular contributor to azhimukham.com and Kappan was doing his duty as a reporter. KUWJ has also filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking it to issue a writ in the nature of Habeas Corpus or any other such appropriate writ to release the journalist from ‘illegal detention’. The Union in his petition also alleged that Kappan’s arrest was in violation of the D.K Basu guidelines of the SC regarding the arrest of a person.
Azhimukham.com’s editor K.N Ashok regarding Siddique’s links to PFI said that as far as they know, the journalist is not associated with the PFI and said that even if he is, it is not a crime as PFI is not a banned organization. The Delhi Union of Journalists and the Press Council of India have also demanded for the immediate release of the journalist.