That Siddique Kappan was carrying a pamphlet on how to protect oneself during a protest – with tips like “wear comfortable clothes” and “drink glucose” – is proof for the Uttar Pradesh government that he was educating himself on “Rioting 101”.
This is one of the reasons why the state has opposed his bail plea in the Supreme Court.
On September 5, the state’s standing counsel Ruchira Goel filed a 332-page statement of objection to Kappan’s bail plea, which has been listed by the apex court for disposal on September 9.
Kappan, a journalist from Kerala, was arrested in October 2020 with three others while on their way to Hathras to report on the gangrape and death of a Dalit woman. He was charged under the UAPA and with sedition, and has been in jail ever since. After a sessions court and the high court rejected his bail plea, he moved the Supreme Court.
But the UP government believes Kappan is part of a larger conspiracy to “foment religious discord and spread terror in the country”, a “mastermind at evading police”, and “well aware of how to make use of legal loopholes to frustrate the criminal process”.
Newslaundry combed through the state’s objections to Kappan’s bail. Here are our chief takeaways.
The incriminating pamphlets
Kappan said no incriminating material had been recovered from him – a claim described by the state as “patently untrue”.
During his arrest, the UP police recovered from the vehicle in which he had been travelling. The first, 17 pages long, was titled “Justice for Hathras victim” and the second, 11 pages long, was titled “Am I Not India’s Daughter?”.
The “Justice” pamphlet explains what happened to the Hathras victim with links to multiple petitions, such as “resign prime minister”, “introduce sex education in schools”, and “fundraiser for victim’s family”. It lists dates and locations for protests.
“Am I Not India’s Daughter?” invites citizens to participate in a protest in Chennai on October 5. It contains guidelines to follow while participating in a protest – don’t wear contact lenses, for instance, because they might react poorly with teargas, and “try to bring as little attention to yourself as possible”.
The pamphlet in all likelihood is cannibalised from an American document probably put together during the #BlackLivesMatter protests, because it urges readers to know their rights under the First Amendment, for example.
It also has guidelines like: “If you see black people running, run with them.” Another section says: “If you decide to go protesting, please do your research on whether or not the riot you’re attending is a set up or not. Several (in San Diego and Phoenix for example) have been debunked as white supremacists trying to lure people. It has been exposed by the NYPD will film...”
Highlighted by the UP police, however, is this guideline in the section “What to do and know”: “Recognise the place you are rioting in, plan and know how to reconnect with your friends.”
According to the state, both pamphlets are “nothing more than a ‘Rioting 101’ for rioters”, teaching them how to “conceal themselves from the police”.
Kappan’s employment with Thejas
According to the document, Kappan said he had worked in Saudi Arabia from 2006 to 2011 but did not name his employer.
He returned to Kerala in 2011. In his statement to the police, he allegedly said he joined as sub-editor with Thejas newspaper in Kozhikode on his return “since he was very passionate about journalism”.
The state’s document cited a purported copy of Kappan’s curriculum vitae, as found on his seized laptop. According to this CV, he worked for Gulf Thejas Daily in Jeddah in 2009, for Mangalam daily in Kerala in 2013, and for Thejas in Delhi from 2014 to 2018. At the time of his arrest, he worked for Thiruvananthapuram-based Azhimukham, a Malayalam news portal.
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Now, Thejas is a Malayalam newspaper founded by the Popular Front of India. Its print edition though it continued as a magazine and online.
In its objection to Kappan’s bail, the state referred to a May 2011 cover story in the Jeddah edition of Thejas on the death of Osama Bin Laden. A photo of Bin Laden allegedly had the word “martyr” under it with a quote from the Quran that roughly translated to: “Do not think they are dead; the people who killed in the way of Allah; they are living with Allah; they are provided resources (gifts)”.
It’s unclear who wrote this report, but the UP government believes it shows how Kappan “has been closely associated” with a publication that “blatantly espoused terrorist causes”.
A senior person who was with Azhimukham, where Kappan last worked, told Newslaundry :“They are presenting Siddique’s official resume as evidence they found and claiming that he was trying to ‘cover up’ his job in Saudi.”
Contradiction over a press card
When Kappan was arrested, he claimed he was only carrying a Press Club of India ID card and no identification from Thejas. According to the UP government, the police then seized four ID cards from him – two from Thejas, one from the Press Club, and the last from the Delhi Union of Journalists.
But the two Thejas cards aren’t ID cards. They aren’t even both issued by Thejas. One was Kappan’s visiting card for Thejas, and the other a visiting card for Azhimukham. Images of the cards were included in the government’s annexure.
Why Kappan went to Hathras
Kappan had claimed Azhimukham had deputed him to Hathras to report on the Hathras gangrape and murder.
The state claimed that Azhimukham’s editor did not confirm that he had “deputed” Kappan to cover the case. The editor purportedly said that at 12.10 am on October 5, 2020, a day before Kappan’s arrest, Kappan had “merely” sent a message on the office WhatsApp group, informing them that he was going to Hathras.
But a senior person who had worked with Azhimukham at the time told Newslaundry it’s standard practice for reporters to “jump into a vehicle to get a story”.
“There were already conversations about covering the Hathras story,” he said. “Siddique did a classic reporter’s action. In fact, as a reporter, he is expected to go and cover big stories. If he had written from Hathras and met our editorial standards, we would have most definitely published the story on Azhimukham.”
Kappan had been arrested with three others – Campus Front of India national treasurer Atik-ur-Rehman, CFI Delhi’s former general secretary Masood Ahmed, and driver Mohammad Alam.
On why Kappan was travelling with them, the ex-Azhimukham employee said, “There’s nothing unusual about a reporter hitchhiking with activists.”
When asked about the editor quoted by the UP government, he said, “The UP police is trying to find a conspiratorial angle where none exists. The entire premise of the UP police’s claims about Kappan’s activities is based on complete ignorance of what journalism is. They have neither consulted the Press Council nor any senior journalists to understand what journalism even entails.”
Travelling with ‘riot accused’, ‘anti nationals’
That Kappan was travelling with the activists was reiterated again by the state government, which said Kappan had “conveniently brushed over the fact” that he was travelling with “persons who were named accused in previous riots”.
Masood Ahmed had been named as an accused in the 2020 Bahraich riots. Driver Mohammad Alam is, the state said, the brother-in-law of one Danish Khan, allegedly “an accused in relation to the Delhi riots”.
Why would Kappan choose to travel with “known riot accused persons”, the state asked. Kappan was unable to give a convincing response, the state added, except “bald assertions that he was carrying out his so-called journalistic duties”.
Describing the PFI as “anti-national and terrorist”, the state’s response referred to how PFI activists had maimed a lecturer in 2010, and had backed a “weapons training terrorist camp” in Narath in 2013.
The state also said documents related to the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India had been recovered from Kappan’s laptop and from a “steel almirah in his rented house in Delhi”. It said PFI “basically comprised of ex-SIMI members” and these documents showed Kappan’s close ties to PFI.
It should be noted that PFI is not banned in India. The state, however, noted that “it has in fact been declared as an illegal organisation, membership of which is punishable, by the Jharkhand Government on 12.02.2019”.
Part of a ‘delegation’ to ‘spread terror’
To counter his claims of being a journalist, the state said Kappan was actually part of a “PFI/CFI delegation to meet the family of the Hathras victim and foment discord and spread terror”.
This allegation is based on a text message sent by co-accused Rauf Sharif, national general secretary of CFI. Sharif has in the Delhi riots, making posters related to Babri Masjid and for inciting people against National Registry of Citizenship and Common Civil Code. According to the UP police, Sharif also funded Kappan’s trip to Hathras.
Sharif has been charged with UAPA and is currently in jail. He is also being investigated by the ED under charges of money laundering in the same case as Kappan.
On October 5, 2020, Sharif allegedly sent Kappan a text message which read “what’s the status there”. According to the UP government, this meant that “Sharif was well aware” of Kappan’s whereabouts. Allegedly, Sharif also confirmed that he knew Kappan’s whereabouts while giving his statement to the police.
Though Kappan had claimed to have no personal association with Sharif, the state used a series of text messages between the two to prove their friendship. For instance, in June 2019, when Sharif got married, Kappan purportedly texted him saying “CFI love marriage?” Sharif replied, “She is not cf member”, to which Kappan allegedly said, “then PFI love”.
The chats, the state concluded, “clearly show a personal relationship and use of casual language between the two parties”. Moreover, it also “corroborates” the fact that Kappan was travelling to Hathras as part of the CFI delegation “at the behest of Rauf Sharif”.
Further, the state highlighted that in a chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate in February 2021, Rauf Sharif has been “established as the main fundraiser and foreign moneys launderer for CFI”.
CFI’s Twitter handle
The UP government has spotlighted CFI’s Twitter handle for tweeting in February 2021 that “Campus Front Delegation was arrested earlier en route to Hathras and falsely charged with draconian laws...”
This makes it “amply clear”, the state said, that Kappan was going to Hathras as part of a CFI delegation. Thus his “assertion that he was going as a ‘journalist’ is clearly a mere cover-up”.
The annexure has a copy of the tweet in its entirety. Posted on February 21, 2021, three months after Kappan’s arrest, here’s what it says:
“Campus Front delegation was arrested earlier en route to hathras and falsely charged with draconian laws now they attempt linking him to this case based on a pre-planned game. The agencies accusation against Rauf of funding the visit is proven baseless before the court.”
Meanwhile, between February 12 and 14, Sharif was from a Kerala jail to Mathura after a warrant was issued in connection with a case of funding and stirring unrest in Hathras. He had been arrested by the ED in December under charges of money laundering.
Accusations of terror funding
In September 2020, Kappan received Rs 25,000 in his account. In October 2020, he received another Rs 20,000. Kappan, in his petition to the Supreme Court, said the first transaction was money he had deposited from his savings to build his house in Kerala. The second was money borrowed from friends which had been returned.
The state pointed out that Kappan was contradicting himself. In his high court petition, the state claimed, Kappan had said the payments “are relating to his salary paid for working at Thejas Daily”.
According to the UP government, Kappan used this money for two things: to conduct a “secret workshop” in September 2020 and for his trip to Hathras to spread “religious discord and “terror”. ()
Once more, the state government referred to Kappan’s WhatsApp conversations, this time with Kamal KP, general secretary of PFI. These conversations allegedly exposed that Kappan and Kamal were planning a “secret workshop”. A voice note was allegedly sent by Kappan to Kamal followed by a text message which said “after listening, delete this”.
According to the UP government, the money was deposited in Kappan’s account after the workshop. Furthermore, according to Rauf Sharif’s statement to the police, Kamal had deposited the money in Kappan’s account for his Hathras journey.
On January 9, 2021, during a hearing at the Allahabad High Court, Kappan allegedly said that the workshop spoken about in the voice note to Kamal was “merely a Wikipedia workshop”.
But the UP government said, “Why would the Petitioner (Kappan) ask the recipient (Kamal KP) to delete the voice note if it were for something as innocuous as a Wikipedia workshop?”
Nexus with PFI and CFI
According to Kappan, other than being a journalist with Thejas, he had no personal association with CFI or PFI. He also stated he had no personal acquaintance with his co-accused.
The UP government claimed that Kappan’s relationship with PFI was “much deeper” as he often warned PFI leaders of “government suspicions”, “discussed his ambitions, has written articles in other publications on the directions of such PFI members, and has, in one chat specifically even admitted that he is a ‘PFI person’”.
The state government told the apex court that the investigation “has revealed a close nexus and deep connection” with PFI and CFI which in turn has been “found to have connections with Al Qaeda linked in Turkey”.
The state government also flagged conversations between Kappan and P Koya, a founding member of PFI and also the editor of Thejas magazine.
One conversation from 2018 purportedly had Koya telling Kappan there’s a particular paper that will not hire anyone from PFI. Kappan allegedly responded, “To them, I am not a Popular Front person but a Muslim who is praying 5 times a day.”
In other conversations, Koya apparently often suggested stories that Kappan could “write and make viral”. The state government concluded that Kappan “then writes such stories from a communal strife/fomenting angle in Azhimukham and sends the same to P Koya”.
The government also said these chats were not “merely those between an editor and his writer” – it also said the relationship “should have ceased to exist” after the organisation’s print edition shut down in 2018.
A ‘hit squad’
Finally, the state government pointed to a “link” between Kappan and two men named Ansad Badruddin and Firoz Khan. Both had been by the Lucknow anti-terror squad after “explosives” were found in their possession. The state government said the duo had allegedly told the police they were a “hit squad” of PFI and were “funded by Rauf Sharif and Kamal KP”.
The state government said Kappan allegedly engaged in WhatsApp conversations with Badruddin which “clearly contradicts the petitioner’s claim that he ‘may’ have had some communication with Badruddin”. Kappan was, the state government said, the “think tank” of the PFI and “had directed them to target Hindu organisations”.
Finally, the state government pointed out that even though the chargesheet has been filed, “investigation into the entire terrorist cell is still ongoing”.
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