The Uttar Pradesh Police has booked Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan and three others for sedition as well as under the stringent UAPA, a day after they were stopped on their way to Hathras, home to a Dalit woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped. Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur have been booked by the Mathura police. Siddique Kappan is a senior Delhi-based journalist, doing freelance work for several Malayalam media houses, including azhimukham.com.
The FIR (first information report) copy, accessed by TNM, alleges that the four men had gone to disrupt the peace in Hathras and there is a big conspiracy behind their visit. The Uttar Pradesh police had earlier said that they had arrested them for having links with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliate in Mathura. However, the PFI link has not been mentioned in the FIR at all.
The FIR shows that the four have been booked under 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) and 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code, as well as section 17 (punishment for raising funds for terrorist act) and 14 (punishment for unlawful activities) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
All the four have also been booked under section 65 (tampering with computer source documents), 72 (punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service) and 76 (punishment for violation of privacy) of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.
The FIR also mentions the website, justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.
The Uttar Pradesh police had on Monday said that it seized the mobile phones, laptops and some literature, which “could have an impact on peace and law and order”, from the arrested people. During interrogation, it came to light that the four arrested people had links with the PFI and its associate organisation Campus Front of India, the UP police had claimed.
The Delhi unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seeking his release, saying he was going to Hathras only to perform his duty as a reporter. Terming Kappan's arrest as illegal and unconstitutional, the KUWJ also filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking his immediate production before the court and release from the "illegal detention".
Kappan is also the KUWJ's secretary and was proceeding to Hathras only to do his duty as a reporter, KUWJ's Delhi unit president Miji Jose told the Chief Minister in her letter, urging him to order his release.
"We understand that he was taken into 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," KUWJ said.
Hathras has been in the news following the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on September 14 in a village in the district. And her cremation at night, allegedly without the parents' consent, has triggered widespread outrage.