Siddique Kappan, a freelance journalist based in Delhi, was detained by the Uttar Pradesh police while he was making his way to Hathras on Monday.
Kappan, 35, was travelling to Hathras to report on the murder and alleged gangrape of a teenage Dalit girl there. He had just reached the Maant toll plaza when the police detained him.
Kappan, who has been a journalist for some 12 years, reports for several news websites in his native Kerala. He also serves as the secretary of the Delhi chapter of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists. He was assigned to cover the Hathras story by the website Azhimukham.
Kappan had left Delhi for Hathras at around 6 am on October 5, apparently hitching a ride with members of the Popular Front of India, or PFI, known to him.
Asked about the journalist’s detention, Gaurav Grover, the police chief of Mathura, told the , “During checking at the Maant Toll Plaza on Monday morning, we found the movement of a Swift Dzire car suspicious. We questioned the four persons and they were taken into preventive arrest under Section 151 of the CrPC. It appears they were heading towards Hathras. While no FIR has been filed against them, during questioning they said they are related to PFI and CFI.”
The CFI, or the Campus Front of India, is an affiliate of the PFI. The Uttar Pradesh police have accused the organisation of inciting violence. In December 2019, the state’s police chief a letter to the central government seeking a ban on the PFI, which he held responsible for inciting violence during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
KN Ashokan, the editor of Azhimukham, told Newslaundry that Kappan has been a regular contributor to the news website since January this year.
"He informed on Monday morning that he was going to Hathras," Ashokan said. "We thought that he had already left for Hathras. We were trying to reach out to him, but we could not. Then, later in the evening, we got to know about the detention from reports."
Ashokan reiterated that as far as he knows, Kappan "does not have any connection with the PFI".
Journalist unions petition for Kappan's release
After learning about Kappan’s arrest, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists sent a letter to chief minister Adityanath asking for the reporter’s release. “Mr Kappan was trying to do his duty as a reporter. We urge you to get him released at the earliest,” reads the letter sent by Miji Jose, the union’s president.
Later today, the union filed a habeus corpus petition in the Supreme Court over Kappan's "illegal detention". The petition said: "The present writ petition is confined to facilitate a dignified democratic working atmosphere, spirit and philosophy of the constitution of India, for the members of the petitioner who all are working journalists, including access to Hathras and for the immediate release of Mr Siddique Kappan.”
The petition sought to "know the whereabouts" of the journalist, stating he was "taken into custody flouting all guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the past". It called his arrest a "breach of constitutional values".
The union also addressed a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi, asking for "urgent action" to secure Kappan's release.
Yesterday, Ansaar Indori, a Delhi-based advocate, filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission over Kappan's "illegal detention".
The Delhi Union of Journalists also expressed its alarm at Kappan's arrest, stating that the arrest of journalists "for their views and reportage is a serious infringement of the freedom of the press". A press release from the union cited the arrest of journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was in August and is still in jail.
The sentiment was echoed by the Press Club of India, which demanded Kappan's immediate release.
"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 statement said. "In these circumstances, our worry is that UP Police may not fight shy of using anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist.”
Update on October 7
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