Siddique Kappan alleges police torture, use of religious slurs

The New Delhi-based journalist spent 28 months in jail over allegations of having links to PFI.

Published : Feb 07, 2023 16:17 IST

Siddique Kappan with his family.

Siddique Kappan with his family. | Photo Credit: Siddique Kappan

New Delhi-based Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan got bail on February 2 after he had spent 28 months in jail over allegations of having links to Popular Front of India (PFI), an organisation that is now banned.

The police had arrested him when he was on the way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to report on the gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old girl by upper-caste men.

Kappan and three others who were arrested were accused of creating a disturbance in society. The three others were Athikur Rehman, Alam, and Masood. Two days after their arrest, the police filed a first information report (FIR).

According to the FIR, Kappan and three others were travelling to Hathras with the intention of “breaching the peace and tranquility”, and there was allegedly a conspiracy behind it. In addition, the FIR claimed that the four were raising money to organise “riots” and sow panic throughout society in response to the Hathras event.

The FIR also mentioned a pamphlet carried by the four men with the statement: “Am I, not India’s daughter?”, which the FIR alleged was “sufficient to create mass rebellion and disturb the social system”.

The four were later charged under the stringent UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). On the UAPA, Kappan said that it was increasingly being used as a political tool to silence voices against the government.

The journalist was granted bail by the Supreme Court in September 2022. However, an Enforcement Directorate money laundering case meant that he had to stay behind bars. The Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench eventually granted him bail on December 23, but his release was postponed since the court was out of session and certain procedures including formalities for the sureties needed to be completed.

Kappan said that the government arrested him in order to cover up its handling of the Hathras case. It gave a communal spin to the whole episode in an effort to save face, he added.

As soon as he came out of jail, Kappan first met the people behind his bail: those who provided his sureties and the advocates. According to Kappan, his lawyers had a hard time arranging for Uttar Pradesh residents who would be willing to sign sureties for him. Only a few came forward. They included former Lucknow University vice chancellor and prominent activist Roop Rekha Verma, the Lucknow-based activist Alleemullah Khan, and Kumar Sauvir, an independent journalist.

The 43-year-old journalist expressed happiness upon being reconnected with his family—his wife Raihanath, son Muzammil, and daughter Mehnaz.

Police torture

The experience of the past 28 months, during which he claims that the police tortured and selectively targeted him because of his religion, will not leave him for a long time. The police, he claimed, “tortured” him to force him to confess that he had links with terrorist outfits.

He said: “They repeatedly slapped me and beat me on the legs and feet. They attempted to get me to say that I had connections to Maoists or Islamic terrorists. They would ask me if I had been to Pakistan, or if I used to eat beef.”

Kappan also denied the Uttar Pradesh government’s charges that he engaged in money laundering and that he had ties to PFI. He said that he has never been a part of the PFI or any extremist group.

He said: “As a journalist, I have links with leaders of various organisations and parties such as the BJP and the RSS. I have spoken to and met MPs and Ministers, especially from Kerala, for more than a decade. There is not a single incident of terror plans or connections alleged against me.”

In jail, he fell ill and was admitted to a medical college in Mathura, where he recalls he was restrained in an “inhumane way” in “metal handcuffs”. Also, he told Frontline, the medical college administration did not allow him to use the toilet for a week. “I had to use a plastic bottle to urinate,” he said.

Kappan believes it will take a while get back to normal. “I have only got bail, the legal battle will continue.”

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