New Delhi: On February 2, journalist Siddique Kappan was released from Lucknow jail after having been granted bail by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court in a case of alleged money laundering. The biggest challenge Kappan’s family and lawyers had faced was finding two people from Uttar Pradesh who could stand surety for him.
Two individuals, who were not familiar to Kappan and his family until then, stepped forward to sign for Kappan: 63-year-old journalist Kumar Sauvir, who has been a journalist for 42 years; and 44-year-old writer and activist Dr. Aleemullah Khan.
When Kappan was released from jail, he wanted to meet the two individuals who stood surety for him. Aleemullah was waiting for him outside the jail, while Sauvir was waiting for him at a hotel in Gomti Nagar, as he had recently recovered from paralysis.
“When Kappan was granted bail for the first time in the UAPA case in September 2022 by the apex court, it was challenging to find someone local to sign surety. However, when 79-year-old Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, agreed to be a surety, I knew that it wouldn’t be difficult in this PMLA case,” Kappan’s advocate, Mohammad Dhanish K.S., told The Wire.
For Sauvir, there is no uncertainty surrounding the decision. “Kappan is a genuine person. I am confident that he will follow court orders. I will stand by him unless he is proven innocent.”
“As a proud Sanatani, my religion teaches me to support those who are honest. I believe that Siddique Kappan is an honest individual and I will stand by him until he is proven guilty,” Sauvir said.2
Dr. Aleemullah Khan, meanwhile, wrote the book, Baizzat Bari, about people who have suffered spells in jail before being proven innocent by the court. “I am happy to be a part of Kappan’s bail. I have been following his case since the day he was arrested while on his way to report on the Hathras story where a Dalit woman was gang-raped and murdered by ‘upper’ caste men,” Aleemullah told The Wire.
Sauvir pledged a 9,000-square-foot plot for Kappan’s bail bond, while Aleemullah pledged his car.
“Knowing the consequences, are you not afraid as a journalist?” The Wire asked Sauvir, citing to him that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CAAJ) reported 138 cases of persecution of journalists in Uttar Pradesh between 2017 and February 2022.
“When I stood up for Kappan, the first thing that motivated me was that he is a journalist and I am also a journalist. We share the same duty of bringing the truth to the people. So if this government can put someone in jail for their duty, I am ready for anything,” said Sauvir.
Both Kumar and Aleemullah said they were emotional when they met Kappan. “We were both speechless and couldn’t speak for a few minutes. He hugged me and we both started crying. I felt like I have known him for years,” Sauvir recounted.
About his meeting with Kappan, Aleemullah said, “Kappan shared his jail experience with me, including the difficulties he faced being in jail with criminals. We share the same religion and I know how the Uttar Pradesh government is targeting people from our community. I am prepared for this fight and I know this is not the end.”
This story, first published late on February 6, has been republished with additional details at 2.15 pm on February 7.