Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested in October 2020 while on his way to Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, where a Dalit teenager was gang-raped and later died, has “deep links” with the Popular Front of India, the state government has told the Supreme Court, opposing his bail.
The Popular Front of India is not a banned organisation in India, as such membership or connection to it cannot be immediately considered an offence.
The top court had on August 29 sought the Uttar Pradesh government’s response on the journalist’s bail plea.
In reply, the Adityanath government has claimed that Kappan is part of a larger conspiracy to “incite religious discord and spread terror.”
According to the news agency PTI, the state government said the investigation has revealed clear links between the accused and the PFI and Campus Front of India’s top leadership, including Kamal K.P. and Oma Salaam.
The CFI too is not banned in India.
The Indian Express reported that the UP Police special task force (STF), which is investigating the case, said in its affidavit that Ansad Badruddin, “a close associate” of Kappan, and “one Firoz (both co-accused) were arrested in Lucknow with explosives”, adding, they were the “hit squad” of the PFI who were funded by Rauf Sharif (national general secretary of CFI, PFI’s student wing) and Kamal K.P., and were advised by the petitioner to “target Hindu organisations…”
The affidavit, according to The News Minute, also claimed that he had 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 Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is a banned organisation. IHH or IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation is a Turkish NGO.
The claim that Kappan is associated with the PFI has also been challenged by Kappan’s family and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists.
The government also claimed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) “has found Sharif to be the main fundraiser and money launderer of the CFI, which utilised Sharif’s account …lakhs [rupees] of money was transferred to Sharif’s account from abroad and then funneled into illegal and terrorist activities in India. Interrogations of Sharif detailed the entire money trail; how it was laundered and what terrorist/unlawful acts it was used towards. One such trail was of the money transferred to co-accused Atiq-ur-Rahman to hire the cab to take the CFI delegation to Hathras on 05.10.2020”.
Atiq-ur-Rahman was among the other three persons who were arrested along with Kappan.
Last year, the ED had claimed that the PFI wanted to “incite communal riots and spread terror” in the aftermath of the Hathras incident. Its charge-sheet had named Kappan, along with others.
The STF affidavit further said, “However, in his supplementary rejoinder before the high court [which rejected his bail plea], the petitioner states that “the alleged payments made to the applicant are relating to his salary paid for working at Thejas Daily,” and, “thus, there is a clear contradiction in the petitioner’s version of source of the said funds.”
Thejas, a Malayalam daily owned by the PFI, ceased publication in 2018.
Accusing him of suppressing facts in his bail plea, the STF said that Kappan was “employed” in Saudi Arabia from 2002-2011, and that he had quit the job in 2011 and returned to Kerala where he “opted to join as a sub-editor of Thejas newspaper at Kozhikode,” but he had not revealed that in Saudi too, “he was a reporter for Gulf Thejas Daily, Jeddah…”
At the time of his arrest, Kappan was a regular contributor for the Malayalam-language daily, Azhimukham.
The state government also submitted that Kappan has been unable to explain the source of the cash deposits of Rs 45,000 made in his account in September-October 2020.
“Thus, a clear prima facie case against the petitioner has been established, who, at the directions of the top leadership of PFI, has been writing articles targeted at spreading communal tensions, fomenting riots and terror,” it alleged.
It told the apex court that it has come out in the investigation that the petitioner was actually part of the PFI/CFI delegation to meet the family of the Hathras victim and “foment discord and spread terror.”
The Hathras assault victim died at a Delhi hospital a fortnight after her alleged rape by four ‘upper’ caste men from her village on September 14, 2020. She was cremated in the middle of the night in her village. Her family members had claimed the cremation took place without their consent and that they were not allowed to bring home the body one last time.
The UP Police had arrested Kappan and three others under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 14 and 17 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
As per section 17 of the UAPA, “Whoever raises funds for the purpose of committing a terrorist act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine”.
Section 14 of the UAPA reads, “Whoever knowingly holds any property derived or obtained from commission of any terrorist act or acquired through the terrorist fund shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
On August 4, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court had rejected Kappan’s bail application, saying he had “no work” in Hathras.
The journalist’s plea claimed the high court has failed to take note of the fact that the first information report or the charge-sheet “ex-facie” does not make out a case for the invocation of sections 17 and 18 (Punishment for conspiracy, etc.) of the UAPA.