New Delhi: Siddique Kappan, a journalist who wrote for Malayalam-language news organisations, and three others who were arrested by the UP police on Monday in Mathura while on their way to Hathras have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition. On Tuesday, they were remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody by a local court in Mathura.
An FIR has been lodged against them in the Mant police station, charging them under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC, sections 14 and 17 of UAPA, sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
They were arrested near Mathura on Monday, with Kappan heading to Hathras to cover the present situation in the area in light of the death of the 19-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four Thakur men.
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”.
Notably, on Tuesday, the Press Club of India (PCI) in its statement condemning the arrest of the journalist and demanding his immediate release, had said, “In these circumstances our worry is that UP Police may not fight shy of using anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist.”
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.”
In the FIR, the sub-inspector accuses the four of carrying pamphlets reading ‘Justice for Hathras Victim’ and moving towards the district to disrupt peace as part of a “big conspiracy”.
On Tuesday, several journalists unions and bodies had condemned Kappan’s arrest, saying he was trying to do his duty as a reporter. Kappan is a Delhi-based Malayalam language journalist and secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ)’s Delhi unit. The Union had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, asking it to “issue a writ in the nature of Habeas corpus or any other appropriate writ, or orders directing the respondent…produce Mr. Sidhique Kappan before this Hon’ble court, and release him from illegal detention.”
The three others arrested have been identified as Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam. While Rehman and Ahmed are members of the Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), Alam was driving the vehicle in which they were travelling to Hathras.
The PFI had said that “the UP Police is trying to divert the attention of the issue by creating a conspiracy theory”. According to a statement released by the organisation, “Such acts only show their nervousness due to the growing anger among the people of UP and rest of the country. The Popular Front will not be intimidated by such tactics of suppression by the UP govt.”
The UP police had claimed that the four men were stopped at a toll after they received information that some “suspicious people were on their way to Hathras from Delhi”. According to a statement by the police, a laptop, their mobile phones and some literature, which ‘could have an impact on peace, and law and order in the state’, have been seized from them. The police allege that the arrested persons received foreign funding to organise protests.
In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the UP government claimed that the protests demanding justice to the Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped in Hathras district involved a “criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict, instigating violence, incidents of vicious propaganda by sections of media and political interests.” It claimed “orchestrated efforts” have been made to malign the image of the government.