The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday, September 5, filed a strong statement of objection in the Supreme Court opposing the bail petition filed by jailed Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan. The government’s application said that Siddique’s plea is “riddled with contradictions” and that the police investigation has revealed that he has “deep links” with “terror funding or planning with the Campus Front of India, the student wing of the Popular Front of India”.
Siddique and three others were arrested on October 5, 2020 while they were on their way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to report on the rape and murder of a Dalit woman by dominant caste men. The Supreme Court is set to hear Siddique’s bail plea on Friday, September 9, and had in the last hearing issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government seeking its response.
The UP government submitted in court that an investigation has revealed that Siddique had a “close nexus and deep connection with the extremist PFI” and a “close nexus with the top leadership of PFI/CFI (which is basically formed of ex-SIMI members), who in turn have been found to have connections with Al Qaeda linked organisations like IHH in Turkey”.
The government has countered his bail application on seven grounds. The application said that Siddique failed to disclose that he worked for Gulf Thejas Daily while he was in Saudi Arabia in 2009, but the police found out about this once they accessed his resume. The government said that Thejas is a Malayalam mouthpiece of the “extremist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI)” which was “compelled to shut down in India in 2018 amidst reports (including one by a Kerala High Court appointed independent committee) that the paper’s coverage was aimed at creating religious discord.” The government cited a report where the publication called Osama Bin Laden a “martyr”, adding that this shows that Siddique was “closely associated for more than a decade with a so-called newspaper/publication which has blatantly espoused terrorist causes”.
The UP government said that Siddique had said that he was going to Hathras to report on the rape and murder case, but he was travelling with people who have previously been booked in other cases. The government said that his co-passenger Atik-ur-Rahman is the National Treasurer of CFI and an accused in a 2019 Muzaffarnagar riots case. His other co-passenger, Masood Ahmad, former General Secretary of the Delhi chapter of the CFI, is an accused in a Bahraich riots case, the government said. Alam, the driver of the cab that the four were travelling in, is the brother of a man accused in a 2020 Delhi riots case, the government said.
“If the Petitioner (Siddique) was, in fact, a “journalist” exercising his professional duties as claimed, why would he be travelling with known riot accused persons? The Petitioner has not been able to provide any satisfactory explanation for the same,” the government said.
Countering Siddique’s statements to the court that he was going to Hathras to perform his duty as a journalist, the UP government said that while he had said he was carrying only his press club card, the Thejas ID was also found on him, though the publication had stopped functioning in 2018. The government said that the publication that he was freelancing for, Azhimukhum, had not deputed him to cover the Hathras incident and that his “assertion that he was going as a “journalist” is clearly a mere cover-up”.
The government submitted to the court that Siddique was part of a delegation that was sent to Hathras by Rauf Sharif, National General Secretary of the CFI, whom the government called the “prime fundraiser and financial transaction handler for PFI/CFI.” The government added that Rauf, who the police say is also implicated in a different PMLA case that is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, had provided finances for the trip.
The government added that Siddique and Rauf were in touch and are a part of a “larger conspiracy to foment religious discord and spread terror in the country, especially in the wake of the anti-CAA protests and violence, the Babri Masjid decision, and the Hathras incident”.
The government also denied Siddique’s statement to the court that no incriminating material was found on him, saying that three sets of 17-page pamphlets were found in the car in which he was travelling, and that the pamphlets were “a ‘Rioting 101’ for rioters, teaching them how to, inter alia, conceal themselves from the police, which “riots” to attend, to “recognise the place you are rioting in”.”
The UP government also said that Siddique had made false statements about the Rs 45,000 deposited in his account just days before his Hathras trip. It said that while Siddique had earlier claimed that Rs 25,000 was for his house expenses and Rs 20,000 was payment from a friend, later, in a supplementary application filed before the Allahabad High Court, he said that “the alleged payments made to the applicant are relating to his salary paid for working at Thejas Daily.”
The government said that the police had analysed Siddique’s chats with Kamal KP, General Secretary, PFI, which spoke of a ‘secret workshop,’ and after this, Siddique “told him to delete the chats.” After this, the government said, the money was deposited in his account. “(Siddique) pleaded that the workshop referenced.. was merely a Wikipedia workshop; however the same begs the question: why would the Petitioner ask the recipient (Kamal KP) to delete the voice note if it were for something as innocuous as a Wikipedia workshop?” the government said.
The UP government opposed Siddique's bail plea stating that “all co-accused are notorious criminals with multiple riot-related investigations pending against them”. Calling Siddique a “mastermind at evading police”, the government said that Siddique’s bail petition be dismissed as “there is every likelihood of evidence being discovered and tampering of the same”.