By RAIHANATH KAPPAN / The Quint
Siddikka [Siddique Kappan] was arrested on 5 October, 2020, by the Uttar Pradesh police. He had called me in the night, the day before his arrest and after that, I did not get any calls from him. I thought he might have gone for the interview. I started feeling nervous when he didn’t call me in the night. I was afraid; he might have fallen sick, as he was diabetic. One of the relatives, who came to know about the arrest from Asianet News the next morning, informed us. That is when we came to know he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police.
I was appalled. I was hearing something I hadn’t even thought of in my wildest dreams. A lot of thoughts were running in my mind — What? When? Where and How? I didn’t know anything or anyone else.
And then I started getting calls from our journalist friends in Delhi. They told me he will be released soon. I was numb but was relieved knowing he is good and healthy. The news that came to us was not about his release but that he was charged with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Didn’t Know Anything About Him for a Month’
He began his career in journalism in 2011. Before that, he was abroad. He chose journalism as he had a passion and love for this profession. His reports were never misleading, he always made sure that what he penned down was the truth, even if the process was risky. And that’s why he was in Hathras. If you ask his friends, they will tell you how polite and friendly he was towards everyone. He was never a grumpy man.
Though he didn’t have big dreams, he had always wished to complete the half-constructed home of ours and to live with his family and mother.
It was after a month that I and his advocate were able to talk to him, that too when the Supreme Court let us. We didn’t know anything about him until then, whether he was alive, what was happening to him. We knew nothing. The Kerala Union Of Working Journalists (KUWJ) Union had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court when Siddique was missing. Our advocate went to meet Siddique at Mathura jail, to file a bail application as directed by the Supreme Court. But he was not allowed.
Now, the case is in the Mathura Court. The police still haven’t given us the chargesheet. We can only approach bail in the High Court once we receive the chargesheet; we are in a state of not being able to do anything.
They haven’t given us the chargesheet, and we fear that they haven’t written any of the suspicions in the chargesheet and are writing and rewriting new charges.
Now what we see in newspapers is that Kappan was not arrested from Toll Plaza and had gone further to deliver a speech and give away some cash. They say they have eyewitnesses for the same. These are empty accusations and the police are charging him as per their wish.
There Was Nothing to Hide
That he speaks for Muslims and he writes to goad Muslims are some other accusations against him. He had interviewed the wives of two Delhi-based professors who were booked under the UAPA, and because of that, they are trying to link him with the Bhima Koregaon case. In his career, he had interviewed and reported a lot of cases where justice was denied.
Siddique had interviewed Gujarat IPS Officer Sanjeev Bhatt’s wife over the phone. The investigating officer said that this was enough to put him behind bars for five years, against which he would have to fight a legal battle. His laptop had a file of UAPA cases, which he had obtained under the Right to Information Act, a few movies, PDFs of books, and all the news that had been written for the online portal ‘Azhimukham’. There is nothing to be hidden and all the news on his laptop was published.
Doesn’t a journalist in India have the freedom to think and write openly?
Siddique is not a person who wrote for a religion. He was always compassionate and kind. I didn’t know such qualities were counted as evidence for terrorism and sedition in India.
As a journalist, he had a good relationship with people from various fields.
The biggest fault that the Uttar Pradesh police are highlighting is that Siddique had gone to Hathras with people associated with Campus Front and Popular Front. But are these organisations banned in India? Shouldn’t the police investigate whether there are any criminal cases against these people?
‘I Don’t Have a Job, Kappan Was The Breadwinner’
Siddique had gone to Hathras to know the truth and to visit the family of the girl who was brutally burnt by the government and the police. Even if it is in a bullock cart, a journalist needs to reach the destination and report to the masses with accurate news. He had spoken to a lot of people and had told them that he will be accompanying them if someone was travelling to Hathras. The media company he worked for did not own a vehicle and he couldn’t afford to book a vehicle of his own.
Also, he was not fluent in Hindi. The Hindi that he knew was from his 10th-grade lessons and the little Hindi he learnt after going to Delhi. He came to know about Hathras after the incident, he didn’t know their language or culture. The people who he had accompanied were from Uttar Pradesh and he got acquainted with them from Delhi. When they said they were going, he went with them. Don’t we have the freedom to travel with citizens of India?
They went to Uttar Pradesh via a booked cab and even the driver was booked under UAPA. What did the driver do? Isn’t he as innocent as others in the cab? What does the police have to say against him? He has a family, too.
It has been a year that Siddique is behind bars. He has a family. I do not have a job, he was our breadwinner. The police have shattered the little happiness we had.
This is neither the India I had seen nor the India I had dreamt of.
Not Allowed to Meet at AIIMS
When Kappan was shifted to Delhi AIIMS hospital, I went to the hospital to see him. I pleaded for two hours but the police did not let me in. They clicked a picture of the Aadhar Cards of my son and me. Even a Kerala MP, ET Muhammed, tried to arrange a meeting with the head of AIIMS, but the police were adamant.
The police claimed that he was okay and was in the ICU. They were trying for a speedy discharge, but Siddique was heavily injured in the fall and his teeth were clenched. And still, the police were in a hurry to discharge him. At the time of discharge, he tested positive for COVID-19. He was shifted to the Corona ward.
Because he was always assisted by five police officers, even when he had to use the bathroom, he did it with a gun pointing at him. He felt suffocated and his sugar level was above 500. He was happy with the treatment he got at the corona ward, but he was there only for two days; he was forcefully discharged and taken to jail without any notice. We came to know about this, but not from the police.
On the sixth day, my son and I returned to Kerala from Delhi without seeing Kappan.
Siddique and I have suffered a lot and our rights have been violated since his arrest. The right of a citizen to live in peace irrespective of caste and creed should not be taken away and should not shatter the life of a family. I live in the hope of a better tomorrow. Justice delayed is justice denied. All innocent people should be set free, that is my wish and that is my hope.
This article first appeared on thequint.com