A journalists’ union in Kerala has condemned the Uttar Pradesh Police for inserting stories written by a journalist from the southern state in a chargesheet against him for allegedly “trying to further the terror agenda” of the banned outfit Student’s Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
Kerala journalist Siddiqui Kappan was jailed last year when he was on his way to report the Hathras gang-rape case that triggered nationwide shock.
Thirty-six articles written by Mr Kappan – accused of having links to the Popular Front of India (PFI), an outfit the Yogi Adityanath government wants banned – have been cited in the chargesheet.
“Kerala Union of Working Journalists is shocked to learn that the Uttar Pradesh Police has included the reports and interviews done by Siddiqui Kappan as a journalist in the chargesheet filed against him. The action of the UP Police is nothing but treating journalism as a crime. This goes against the very spirit of freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution,” the journalists’ union said in a statement today.
The chargesheet – filed in April by the UP Police’s Special Task Force and presented before a Mathura court – has still not been made available to Mr Kappan or his legal representatives, his lawyers have claimed. They have petitioned the trial court, seeking “true copies of the document to the accused”.
One of the articles is on the protests against the controversial citizenship law that started in December 2019 across the country and continued till the pandemic began. “The article talks about the firing by a Hindu man Kapil Gurjar during the Shaheen Bagh protests and compares this incident to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The article also criticises the way the Delhi Police handled the protests,” the chargesheet reads.
The chargesheet also cites another article on the controversy over the alleged role of the Nizamuddin Markaz in spreading the pandemic, saying “it has been presented as a ploy by the central government to defame the Muslim community.”
In the statement, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) requested the Supreme Court to intervene and “quash the shameful act of the UP Police.”
“The KUWJ is also anguished to learn that the copy of the chargesheet has not been given to Siddiqui Kappan even though we are on the brink of completing one year of his arrest and subsequent incarceration in jail… The KUWJ would reiterate its support for Mr Kappan and his struggle against the false charges made by the UP Police,” the journalists’ union said.
Mr Kappan and three others have been in jail after their arrest in October last year, when they were headed from Delhi to western Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, where a young Dalit woman was gang-raped in September by four men from a so-called upper caste community, eventually leading to her death.