On October 9, the Campus Front of India addressed a press conference at the Delhi press club to discuss the "illegality and arbitrary nature" of the arrest of two of its members along with a Kerala journalist earlier this week.
The two CFI members, Atiq-ur Rehman and Masood Ahmed, were and their driver Alam on October 5 near Mathura, when they were on their way to meet the family of the Hathras victim. All four have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sedition.
The police said they had on "suspicious people...on their way to Hathras from Delhi", and had seized a laptop, mobile phones and some literature, which "could have an impact on peace, and law and order in the state".
The CFI called it a conspiracy spun by the Uttar Pradesh government to distract from the "real issue" of the Hathras case, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was assaulted and allegedly raped by four Thakur men. The woman later died, and the Uttar Pradesh police without the consent of her family.
Siddique Kappan was assigned to cover the Hathras case by the Malayalam news portal Azhimukham. He also serves as the secretary of the Delhi chapter of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, and reportedly hitched a ride with the CFI members.
KA Rauf Sherif, the national general secretary of the CFI, said: "Their only intention was to express solidarity with the victim's family in Hathras. That was their only crime. Since when did a journalist going somewhere to acquire accurate information, with a mobile phone or laptop to take down notes, become a crime? How is this seditious? This is an extreme case of abuse of power.”
The press meet on October 9.
He pointed out that the families of the four were provided no information on their whereabouts for over 15 hours, in disregard of legal procedure.
When asked about the police's claims about the literature seized from the four, Rauf said: "The police's lies on ‘sectarian violence’, ‘fundraising’ and ‘carrying dangerous literature’ are baseless and nonsensical.” This is the status of our country now, he added, where innocent people who are vocal about human rights are being arrested.
At the press conference, Rauf pointed out that the driver, Alam, had no association with the others and had still been charged with sedition. "We hired him to take them from Delhi to Hathras," Rauf said. "If they had taken an Uber instead, the Uber driver too would have been arrested."
Rauf described the arrests as being part of a counter-narrative "hatched by the Yogi government to save the casteist criminals and cripple the efforts for justice". "The Uttar Pradesh police is terrorising students and journalists in order to evade public revulsion against the Yogi government due to the maltreatment of the brutal rape-murder that took place in Hathras," he said. "Everyone knows who the accused are, but conspiracies and narratives are being concocted to distract citizens.”
He continued: "It is a BJP delusion proposed by the RSS that they can suppress the fight for justice by slapping horrible charges and creating an atmosphere of terror. We will not be taken aback by these intimidation tactics and we will fight this enormity through every possible legal and political manner.”
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