A 41-YEAR-OLD Delhi-based journalist and three others, who were detained by UP Police Monday afternoon from a toll plaza in Mathura, were on Wednesday booked under UAPA, the stringent anti-terror law.
According to the FIR filed in Maant police station, the journalist Siddique Kappan, Campus Front of India (CFI) office-bearers Atiq-ur-Rahman and Masood Ahmed, and a man identified as Alam, have been booked for an alleged “conspiracy behind their visit to Hathras”, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was assaulted and allegedly gangraped on September 14. She died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on September 29.
While Kappan hails from Malappuram in Kerala and has been living in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, the others are UP residents. Kappan is secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and is associated with various Malayalam news outlets, including the website azhimukham.com.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Malappuram, Kappan’s wife Rehana said: “What kind of a democracy is this that a reporter going out reporting is booked under UAPA?” Masood’s elder brother Mohsin said: “We got to know about the detention yesterday and have no idea where he is. The police have not approached us.”
The FIR, filed on a police complaint, states: “During investigation, it was found that there was a conspiracy behind their visit to Hathras. It had been highlighted in media reports that efforts were being made by anti-social people to trigger caste tensions and unrest on the basis of the unfortunate incident in Hathras. In the wake of this, they were trying to collect funds and were also running the website carrd.co. They were trying to invoke riots and threaten law and order and social harmony.”
The FIR has been filed under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act sections 17 (punishment for raising funds for terrorist act) and 14, apart from IPC sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity) and 295A (hurting religious feelings). Sections of the IT Act have also been invoked.
The FIR states: “It was found that the means of collecting funds was illegal and hence liable for seizure. The funds collected from abroad through this website would have been used to incite violence. A pamphlet, ‘Am I Not India’s Daughter’, made with (the website), and many such pamphlets would incite violence. The website was being used to invoke caste-based violence.”
Police said the website being referred to, carrd.co, is where one can create one’s own site — in this case, justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co, which has since been taken down.
The FIR states that such a website would invoke “anti-national” feelings in the youth. Through this website, an “anti-national propoganda” is being generated, and words like “mob lynching”, “migration of labourers” and support of “disruptive elements in Kashmir” are examples, it states.
Mathura-based lawyer Pratibha Sharma, who is representing the four men, said they would file a bail plea Thursday.
“They are in judicial custody. I have not been able to meet the accused yet. Today, they were brought to court under heavy security, as if they were bringing terrorists.”
Kappan and Rehana have three children, aged 18, 12 and 7. “Till afternoon there was hope that he would come out, then I found that he had been booked under UAPA. What did he do wrong? He was reporting. Did he commit some crime? No. Then why have they done this? I haven’t been able to talk to him since he has been detained. The Malappuram SP came today and inquired about my husband. I told him everything, I have nothing to hide,” said Rehana.
On Tuesday, the Delhi unit of KUWJ had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath describing Kappan’s detention as “illegal”. It said that a habeas corpus petition has been filed in the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, the KUWJ expressed hope that the court will “take up the matter at the earliest” and “uphold press freedom and Constitutional principles”.
“The police has flouted all guidelines laid out by the Supreme Court and the democratic procedures in this country in the arrest… He (Kappan) was even denied his right to seek possibilities of taking bail and contacting lawyers, relatives or friends,” the KUWJ said. “This is not just an attack on the press freedom, but also on the democratic rights of Indian citizens.”
CFI is linked to the radical outfit Popular Front of India (PFI). Anis Ahmed, general secretary, PFI, said that the “attempt to link Popular Front by alleging a conspiracy to incite caste or communal violence is completely baseless and ridiculous”.
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