Journalist Siddique Kappan who is working with the popular Malayalam website Azhimukham.com and three others who were arrested by the UP police on Monday in Mathura while on their way to Hathras have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition. On Tuesday, they were remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody by a local court in Mathura. The three others arrested are Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam.
An FIR has been lodged against them in the Mant police station, charging them under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC, sections 14 and 17 of UAPA, sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
They were arrested near Mathura on Monday, with Siddique Kappan heading to Hathras to cover the present situation in the area in light of the death of the 20-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four Thakur men.
The UP police claimed that the four men were stopped at a toll after they received information that some “suspicious people were on their way to Hathras from Delhi”. According to a statement by the police, a laptop, their mobile phones and some literature, which ‘could have an impact on peace, and law and order in the state’, have been seized from them.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) in its letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister of UP Yogi Adityanath has said that Kappan is a senior journalist working for several Malayalam media houses, including Azhimukham.com, and had gone to Hathras on Monday morning to cover the present situation in the area.
“We understand that he was taken into police custody by Uttar Pradesh police from Hathras toll plaza. Our efforts and the efforts by some advocates based in Delhi to contact him were not successful,” read the letter sent on Tuesday. Demanding Kappan’s “earliest release”, the journalists union maintained that “Kappan was trying to do his duty as a reporter”.
The KUWJ has also filled a petition in the Supreme Court of India, asking it to “Issue a writ in the nature of Habeas corpus or any other appropriate writ, or orders directing the respondent…produce Mr. Siddique Kappan before this Hon’ble court, and release him from illegal detention.” The Union, in its petition, has alleged that Kappan’s arrest was in violation of the D.K. Basu guidelines of the Supreme Court regarding arrest and it was done “to obstruct the discharge of (his) duty in the capacity as journalist”.
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has also demanded Kappan’s immediate release. “The Delhi Union of Journalists is alarmed at the arrest of Siddique Kappan, secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi Unit, at Mathura yesterday while on his way to Hathras to cover the fallout of the gangrape. He is a professional journalist who works for several Malayalam media houses including azhimukham.com and was on an official assignment when he was arrested. We urge his immediate release,” read a statement released by them on Tuesday.
The Press Club of India (PCI) has demanded that Kappan be released without delay. “It is our apprehension that the Yogi 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 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. Inhibiting the media is evidently directed toward stopping facts from being known in the public sphere,” it added.