THE Uttar Pradesh Police detained four men — including a 41-year-old Delhi-based journalist working with Malayalam news outlets — from a toll plaza in Mathura on Monday afternoon. Police claimed the men are linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its students’ organisation Campus Front of India (CFI), and were on their way to Hathras.
The journalist has been identified as Siddique Kappan, secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) who writes for Malayalam news websites like azhimukham.com. He is currently in preventive custody of Mathura police. Apart from Kappan, CFI office bearers Atiq-ur-Rahman and Masood Ahmed have been detained along with another person identified as Alam.
While Kappan hails from Kerala and has been living in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area for years, Rahman is from Muzaffarnagar, Ahmed from Bahraich, and Alam from Rampur.
Police said the four men were on their way to Hathras, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was assaulted and allegedly gangraped by four upper-caste men on September 14. She died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on September 29.
“During questioning, the men said they were travelling from Delhi to Hathras to meet the victim’s family, and wanted to raise the voice of the family and provide them ‘justice’,” said a senior police officer in Mathura.
“During a check at Maant toll plaza on Monday morning, we found the movement of a Swift Dzire car suspicious. We questioned the four persons and they were taken into preventive arrest under CrPC Section 151. It appears that they were heading towards Hathras. While no FIR has been filed against them, they said they are related to PFI and CFI during questioning,” Gaurav Grover, SSP Mathura, told The Indian Express.
Mathura Police claimed to have seized material from laptops, phones as well as literature related to protests which could have “impacted” law and order in the area.
Speaking to The Indian Express, K N Ashok, editor of the news portal azhimukham.com, said: “Kappan has been writing for us on Delhi-NCR since January. On Monday, he texted me saying that he is going to Hathras for a story. I don’t know who the three people accompanying him are. We tried calling him yesterday evening but we couldn’t get through. Later, we found out that he has been detained by Mathura police.”
Kappan and his wife, Rehana, have three children aged 18, 12 and 7 years old. Speaking to The Indian Express from Mallappuram, Rehana said: “I last spoke to him late Sunday night about some construction work going on at home. On Monday, I called him and left WhatsApp messages but didn’t get a response. Around 8 am Tuesday, I got a call from a staffer at azhimukham.com, who informed me that my husband had been detained.”
Kappan was detained from the toll plaza around 2 pm, said journalist Manikantan, former secretary of KUWJ. “Kappan started writing for azhimukham.com this year. He has no affiliation with PFI. Earlier, he used to write for Thejas, which is a mouthpiece of PFI. It closed down in 2018 due to a financial crisis and he lost his job. Then he started working for another newspaper called Thalsamayam, which too shut down last year,” said Manikantan.
Meanwhile, the Delhi unit of KUWJ has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Kappan’s detention. “We have filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court against the illegal detention of a journalist who was doing his job… The Constitution of our country protects the freedom of press. Kappan’s arrest is a breach of Constitutional values,” the Delhi unit of the Union said.
The letter to the UP CM, signed by KUWJ president Miji Jose, said, “He is the secretary of KUWJ… and had gone to Hathras Monday morning to cover the present situation in the area… We understand that he was taken into police custody by UP Police from Hathras toll plaza. Our efforts and the efforts by some advocates based in Delhi to contact him were not successful.”
As per the statement, Hathras police has not provided any information regarding Kappan’s whereabouts. “Kappan was trying to do his duty as a reporter. We urge you to get him released at the earliest,” it said.
The Press Club of India too released a statement saying that Kappan should be “released without delay”. “It is our apprehension that the Yogi Adityanath government, in line with its clearly stated conspiracy theory as explanation for the tragic Hathras incident, will employ diversionary tactics to take the focus away from the many suspicious, possibly criminal actions of its police and administration and the virtual silence of the political leadership on the Hathras tragedy,” it said.
In Bahraich, Additional SP K Gyananjay Singh said: “The youth identified as Masood Ahmed (23) is a resident of Jarwal locality. Organisations such as PFI, CFI and SDPI work on similar ideology of inciting religious tension, conspire to riots, disrupt peace. This person has been detained in Mathura; in the past too, we have made several arrests from Jarwal locality of people connected to PFI and SDPI for trying to initiate riots during the Bhoomi Pujan at the Ram Janambhoomi in Ayodhya.”
“These people are active on social media and add others who do not even know what they are being made a part of. We will also establish links of the persons arrested. If we find any link of foreign funding, the investigating agencies will be added in the inquiry,” he said. He said Ahmed does not have any case registered against him in the past.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ahmed’s elder brother, Mohsin, said they didn’t know why he had been detained. “He was in Bahraich for the last few months, preparing for UGC-NET, but left around 10 days back as he was not getting the desired environment here… He did his Master’s in Mass Communication from Delhi after completing his graduation from Eklavya Mahavidyalaya in Bahraich,” said Mohsin.
Ahmed is the youngest of three brothers; Mohsin runs a Jan Sewa Kendra, while the oldest brother, Monis, works in Delhi. Their father runs a general store in the locality.
“The detention of Atiq-ur-Rahman and Masood Ahmed, who are office bearers of CFI, along with journalist Kappan, is highly deplorable. The team was heading to Hathras to meet the victim’s family. The illegal detention shows that under the Yogi government, even intending to meet family of victims is considered a crime. To hide the failed law and order situation, the BJP government has tried to link the PFI to the protests that are happening across the country… PFI will not be intimidated by such tactics of suppression… We demand the immediate release of the CFI leaders and journalist Kappan,” said PFI’s general secretary Anis Ahmed.
In a separate case, an FIR was registered in Mathura on Monday against CFI members under CrPC Section 151, according to which “a police officer, knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence, may arrest, without orders from a magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing”.
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