New Delhi: Journalist Siddique Kappan, who breathed freedom after being in jail for 28 months, told The Wire that he was “targeted” only because he is a Muslim.
Out on bail, the Malayalam language journalist narrated the harrowing experience he had been subjected to in jail. He contracted COVID-19 twice when he was imprisoned.
Recounting his experience in the prison hospital, he said he was called a “terrorist” and was told that he would be treated as one by an official there.
He added that he was handcuffed to the hospital bed and was not even allowed to use the toilet for five days straight, forcing him to relieve himself in a bottle. Then his lawyer appealed in the Supreme Court.
Kappan said he was “targeted” only because he had raised his voice against media censorship under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. “In the process, news portals, supportive of Hindutva politics, called me the mastermind of Delhi riots,” he alleged.
According to him, the government and the Hindutva brigade felt that it was a “perfect distraction” from the gang rape of a Dalit woman in Hathras, which received severe backlash against the BJP and the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.
“It was easy for them to blame me as a ‘terrorist’, because I am Siddique Kappan, a Muslim,” he said.
Kappan recalled that he used to write letters to his family from jail. He said he was worried for his children, especially his 19-year-old son. “I am worried my son would be called a ‘son of terrorist’. I don’t want my children’s image being tarnished like this.”
Asked whether he would take up and continue journalism given that he had to go through such an ordeal in jail, Kappan said he would not back off from journalism even if it meant harassment.
However, he lamented that a section of Hindi journalists in Delhi called him a “kathit patrakar (an alleged journalist)”. He said he had never been shamed as such before in his long career as a journalist.
He was arrested in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras from Delhi to report on the gang-rape case, where a Dalit teenager was allegedly gang-raped and injured by four ‘upper’ caste men. The young girl died eventually.
Kappan was booked 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 UAPA, Sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
Edited by Vikram Mukka.